In cold, poor South Korean mountains, Winter Olympics begin

President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach takes, right, and United Nations President of the General Assembly Miroslav Lacjak take part in the Pyeongchang 2018 Torch Relay ahead of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. (AP)
Updated 09 February 2018
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In cold, poor South Korean mountains, Winter Olympics begin

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea: The world starts watching now. At least, when it comes to sports.
After two failed bids, billions of dollars in preparation and a nagging national debate about whether it’s all worth it, the Winter Olympics open Friday in Pyeongchang with a gala ceremony meant to showcase South Korea’s rise from poverty and war into one of Asia’s most modern nations.
The isolated, rugged mountain town of Pyeongchang, one of the poorest, coldest and most disgruntled parts of an otherwise prosperous South Korea, will be a global player for two weeks of winter sports, Olympic spectacle and, just maybe, a bit of inter-Korean reconciliation.
There will be plenty of sporting drama for both die-hard snow and ice junkies and the once-every-four-years enthusiast.
Will the Russians who aren’t Russians — the 168 who have been invited as “Olympic Athletes from Russia,” competing in neutral uniforms under the Olympic flag — bring home gold? Will Patrick Chan of Canada hit his quad jumps and claim figure skating glory?
Can reigning men’s gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan overcome injury and defend his title against Chan? Will the past and present star of American skiing, Lindsey Vonn, be surpassed by the likely future of the sport, Mikaela Shiffrin?
But the athletic aspect of these games has been overshadowed in the buildup to the opening ceremony by a frenzied, increasingly momentous fire-hose spray of political developments. The rival Koreas, flirting with war just weeks ago, are suddenly making overtures toward the no-longer-quite-so-absurd notion of cooperation.
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s sister, making an unprecedented visit to South Korean soil, will now likely attend the same opening ceremony as US Vice President Mike Pence, who’s vowing toughest-ever sanctions on the North. Could they meet? That and other theories have engulfed South Korean media.
Pyeongchang was not supposed to share the spotlight with Pyongyang. This was not supposed to be, as some in Seoul grumble, the “Pyongyang Games,” a play on the North Korean capital’s phonetic similarity to Pyeongchang.
After two failed Olympic bids that emphasized the high-sounding notion that the games could help make peace with North Korea, Pyeongchang finally sold its successful try in 2011 on the decidedly capitalistic goal of boosting winter sports tourism in Asia.
But North Korea has a habit of not letting itself be ignored when it comes to its southern rival.
Its agents blew up a South Korean airliner ahead of the 1988 Seoul Olympics in an attempt to dissuade visitors; then it boycotted its rival’s Olympic debut on the world stage. A few years later, the discovery of the huge progress Pyongyang had been surreptitiously making on its nuclear programs plunged the Korean Peninsula into crisis. It has only deepened over the years as the North closes in on the ability to field an arsenal of nukes that can hit US cities.
And so, with a little help from a liberal South Korean president eager to engage Pyongyang, the 2018 Pyeongchang Games open.
They do so with as much focus on the North, which has zero real medal contenders, as the South, which in the three decades since its last Olympics has built a solid winter program as it went from economic backwater and military dictatorship to Asia’s fourth-biggest economy and a bulwark of liberal democracy.
Could Pyeongchang’s initial pitch — that it could contribute to peace on the Korean Peninsula — actually become reality? The opening ceremony will offer at least some hints about that, and maybe more. What’s certain is that these Games, more so than any in recent memory, are about far more than sports.


Shane Watson ton takes Chennai Super Kings to third IPL title

Updated 28 May 2018
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Shane Watson ton takes Chennai Super Kings to third IPL title

  • Australian hits 117 off 57 balls as Chennai chase down 178-6
  • 'He is a world class player'

MUMBAI: Shane Watson fought through the pain barrier to smash an unbeaten 117 as Chennai Super Kings thrashed Sunrisers Hyderabad to win their third Indian Premier League title in a spectacular return from a two-year corruption ban.
The 36-year-old Australian, struggling with a hamstring injury, hit eight sixes and 11 fours in a stunning 57-ball innings as Chennai took just 18.3 overs to overcome Hyderabad’s 178-6 off 20 overs.
Chennai finished on 181-2 to crush their opponents by eight wickets. They have now equalled the Mumbai Indians in winning the world’s wealthiest cricket tournament for the third time since it started in 2008.
Ambati Rayudu who hit a four to complete victory was also unbeaten on 16 in Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, which was packed with more than 33,000 fans.
He led tributes to Watson.
“His experience saw us through. He is a world class player and when he is there anything can happen,” Rayudu said.
Hyderabad coach Tom Moody added Watson had produced “something special.”
But the Australian hero said he had been happy to get through the night because of his injury and after failing to score a run in the first 10 balls of his innings.
“I knew I had to start getting runs quickly after those 10 balls,” he said.
“We had to get the rate back up to a run a ball. But once the ball stopped swinging, it became easier.”
Watson has had longstanding hamstring problems which has worsened as the gruelling IPL season reached the finale.
“Throughout the back end of the tournament I was hanging on for dear life,” he said, praising coach Stephen Fleming and captain M.S. Dhoni for the way he had been protected in games.
Chennai, IPL winners in 2010 and 2011, were banned for two seasons in 2015 along with Rajasthan Royals after team officials were found guilty of involvement in illegal gambling.
Dhoni won the toss and put Hyderabad into bat. Their New Zealand captain Kane Williamson hit a top-score 47 as Sunrisers posted 178-6.
The 27-year-old Williamson, a last minute replacement for scandal-tainted David Warner as captain, has been an impressive leader, amassing 735 runs including eight half centuries in 17 matches.
He was supported by Yusuf Pathan who hit an unbeaten 45 off 25 balls, including four fours and two sixes. Carlos Brathwaite also hit an 11-ball 21 to help Hyderabad add 52 runs in the last five overs.
But after reining in Watson at the start and taking South African opener Faf du Plessis for 10 in the third over, the Hyderabad bowlers were put to the sword.
Watson and Suresh Raina put on a swashbuckling 117-run second-wicket stand with Raina hitting 32.
Afghanistan teen sensation Rashid Khan returned figures of 0-24 for Hyderabad but Watson hit the other bowlers to every corner of the stadium.
The big-hitting Aussie allrounder plundered 27 runs off one over of paceman Sandeep Sharma.
Watson took a single off Khan to bring up his hundred in 51 balls and then acknowledged a standing ovation from the Chennai dugout and the crowd with his team already in sight of their IPL triumph.
Watson was just one of nine members of the Chennai squad to be aged over 30. But triumphant captain Dhoni, who has also won three IPL titles, said agility was more important.
“It is the fitness that really matters more than the age aspect,” said the former India captain, 36.
“What captains want is players who move well in the field. It doesn’t matter which year a player is born in, whether you are 19 or 20 — you have to be agile.”
But Dhoni acknowledged that he could not push his whole team to run like a 20-year-old. “If I push Watson to stop a single, there is a very good chance that he’ll burst his hamstring and won’t be available for the next game.
“So what you tell yourself is that they have to commit and try, but there’s no point getting injured for a single.”
The winners of the final were guaranteed a minimum $4 million in prize money.