Irish find feet in mountains

The doomsday scenarios surrounding the Winter Olympics seemed as plentiful as the snow which covers the sprawling complexes of Sochi and its hinterland.

Fears of terrorist attacks, concerns over infrastructure and worries about Russia’s ability to deal with an event of this magnitude have dominated the build-up to the Games.

Yet Olympic Council of Ireland chief executive Stephen Martin, who is chef de mission for this event, has been reassured by his first impressions of the host city.

“The level of security here is comparable to any other Olympic Games, perhaps a bit higher, like Beijing,” he said last night. “On our route from the Olympic Village to Sochi there is a visible police presence which is reassuring.

“But like any Olympic Games, those competing or in the backroom teams are accustomed to security checks as they go from venue to venue so it is hard for us to judge what the security is like from the outside looking in.”

Ireland are represented by a five-strong team — Florence Bell, Sean Greenwood, Conor Lyne, Seamus O’Connor and Jan Rossiter — with snowboarder O’Connor the first in action when contesting today’s slope-style competition.

Team Ireland are based in two of the Olympic Games Villages in Sochi — the Mountain Village and the Endurance Village — and though they may be one of the smallest sides, they aren’t lacking in the battle for attention.

Martin explained: “The media interest in the Irish team has been amazing — we’ve had interviews with BBC, NBC, RTÉ and newspapers from around the world.”

Meanwhile, downhill skier Lyne (21) will be Ireland’s flag bearer at tomorrow’s opening ceremony.


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