Ski star Feuz laments lack of ski buzz in Olympic host China

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Switzerland's Beat Feuz flies over the course during the second men's World Cup training downhill in Lake Louise, Alta. On Wednesday, November 24, 2021. (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press via AP)

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz flies over the course during the second men’s World Cup training downhill in Lake Louise, Alta. On Wednesday, November 24, 2021. (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press via AP)

PA

Two-time Olympic medalist Beat Feuz is not thrilled to travel to Beijing for further Winter Games in a host country with little skiing tradition.

The expected favorite of the men’s downhill on February 6 said in comments reported by Swiss media on Thursday that it was “unfortunate” that its third consecutive Olympics again lacked the atmosphere of classic European races in January.

“These are great competitions,” Feuz said of the Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018 races, “but when you run after Wengen and Kitzbühel it’s a bit of a culture shock.”

“I expect the races in China to be held in front of fairly empty stands again,” said the four-time world downhill champion.

Only Chinese residents can purchase tickets for Beijing Olympic events, including downhill ski races on the courses created for the games at the new resort town of Xiaohaituo in Yanqing District.

International fans are not allowed at the Beijing Olympics due to Chinese travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, there were no public health rules in place at the 2018 Olympics where Feuz won bronze in downhill and silver in super-G on a quiet, uncrowded hill in Jeongseon, South Korea.

The main stand was nearly empty when Feuz and the other downhill medalists gave media interviews in the finish area.

“I find it a shame that we are again in a place where skiing does not have a great tradition,” said the Swiss star, who will be 39 years old at the 2026 Olympic Games. Then alpine races will return to the venues from the heart of Cortina d’Ampezzo and Bormio in Italy.

Feuz’s home country was preferred to host the 2022 Olympics until voters in the Swiss region of Graubünden rejected the candidacy of the upscale neighboring towns of St. Moritz and Davos. Other European cities have also dropped out, leaving voters on the International Olympic Committee to choose in 2015 between Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Hosting the Olympics is key to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s goal of having 300 million people participating in winter sports, even though the venues for the games receive little natural snow. World Cup venues in Europe and North America regularly use artificial snow to prepare more reliable surfaces.

Feuz did not run on the next Olympic courses because a planned stop on the Men’s World Cup circuit to test them in February 2020 was canceled as the coronavirus epidemic spread from China.

This weekend, Olympic ski cross contenders are in China for World Cup races to test their route at Secret Garden resort.

The return of the Swiss team worries Feuz, who is preparing in Canada for the first World Cup downhill of the season on Friday in Lake Louise.

“I heard from skiers… that the process on arrival (in China) was quite complicated with the many constraints related to COVID,” Feuz said, adding that a runner “had not yet been able to leave their room .

“These are difficult times.”


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