Brutal cold raises concerns over Olympics opening ceremony


North Korean alpine skiers for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics Games leave the Gangneung athletes' village for a morning training session on February 5, 2018.

PYEONGCHANG - Freezing weather at the Winter Olympics may force some athletes and staff to pull out of Friday&39;s opening ceremony as Pyeongchang shivers in temperatures plunging to minus 20 degrees Celsius.

Italy are among the countries fearing the dangerous effects of the big chill and are advising their competitors to ensure they are moving at all times during the traditional curtainraiser.

Doctors with the Italian team have ordered coaches and staff with heart problems or diabetes to keep in the warm instead -- the stadium for the opening ceremony is open to the elements with no roof.

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New Zealand are taking no chances and Peter Wardell, their chef de mission in South Korea, admitted on Monday: "We are a little trepidatious about the opening ceremony, which is going to be at night, and how we are all going to keep warm if it&39;s going to be these sorts of temperatures.

"They tell us it&39;s likely to be minus eight, minus 10, which is actually quite warm in comparison (to today).

"But it&39;s still a big ask to have athletes standing outside and then sitting for at least an hour and a half in the cold."

He added: "Quite a few (Kiwi athletes) may decide they don&39;t want to march, particularly those competing really soon after."

The Pyeongchang Games are threatening to be one of the coldest Olympics ever.

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The mercury dipped to minus 11 degrees Celsius (12F) on Monday afternoon and was set to go as low as minus 20 overnight.

Winter athletes are used to being exposed to the cold, but even some of them say they are feeling the brutal effects with the wind making for a punishing climate.

Andrew Musgrave, the British cross-country skier, tweeted: "It&39;s only about -5 degrees, but the wind makes if feel absolutely Baltic.

"Hate to think how cold it will feel if the temperature drops to -20 like it was here last week!"

And Noriaki Kasai, the Japanese ski jumper, said: "I don&39;t think the cold will be a problem while I&39;m jumping because it&39;s just for a short time.

"The scariest bit will be the opening ceremony. I&39;ll have to stick heat patches all over my body for that."