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TOROC dismisses reports over lack of snow for men's downhill

TOROC dismisses reports over lack of snow for men’s downhill{mosimage}The Torino Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games on Friday dismissed reports that insufficient snow was threatening the men’s Olympic downhill, insisting course preparations were right on track.

TOROC made the statement on the heels of a report by the International Ski Federation, which expressed grave concerns about the lack of snowcover on the upper part of the course at Sestriere, Italy.

Skiracing.com first reported the FIS concerns on Wednesday.

“Regarding the recent news on the presumed delays of the preparation of the downhill in Sestriere, TOROC underlines that in the past few days the course preparation has proceeded according to the program agreed upon with the FIS during the last inspection on January 7,” TOROC said in a written statement.

“Thanks to the constant activity of the snowmaking system, to the hard work of the Technical crew (120 military, Ski instructors, volunteers and staff) and the snow brought by helicopter from the Forest Corps directly on the field of play, as of today the operations of preparation can be considered absolutely in line with the program.”

Helmuth Schmalzl, the FIS race director for men’s speed events, visited the site over the weekend and placed gates in the dirt. FIS is also concerned that uncovered rocks near the T-bar carrying athletes to the start constitute a safety hazard.

In an official FIS report earlier this week on the situation at Sestriere, Schmalzl and World Cup race director Guenter Hujara called the situation “very critical.”

“If you ask me, ‘Can I get to the start,’ I would say no,” said Hujara on Wednesday at Wengen, where he is overseeing the 76th annual Lauberhorn races. “It’s not like you have just a little snow. You have nothing.

“It is not meant to say it’s a scandal, but we were there, 34 days ahead of the Olympics, and it was not ready.”

FIS would like to see organizers take advantage of low temperatures to make more snow and ferry it to the start, possibly with the help of helicopters.

But TOROC said there was already 90 percent of the snow needed for the downhill course and 80 percent of the snow necessary under the ski lift. Necessary safety installations along the ski lift are also in progress, the organization said.

The Olympic men’s downhill takes place on Feb. 11, the day after the Opening Ceremony in Torino. The last World Cup race held on that track was in March of 2004, and Daron Rahlves of the United States was the winner.

“Sestriere will host in a month the Olympic Downhill with perfect technical and safety conditions for athletes and technicians,” TOROC concluded.

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