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.


Matt Wallace gets over 'slow play' fine to lead in Dubai at DP World Tour

Updated 17 November 2018
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Matt Wallace gets over 'slow play' fine to lead in Dubai at DP World Tour

DUBAI: This season's triple European Tour winning Matt Wallace scored an excellent bogey-free 65 at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai on Friday to lead the season-ending tournament going into today’s third round.
The Englishman is seeking a fourth European Tour title of the season — a win that would make him the 14th player to win four times or more in a season, and the first since Alex Noren in 2016 — but faces stiff competition from the field.
Fellow Englishman Danny Willett shot a 67 to sit in second place at ten-under alongside first-round leaders Adrian Otaegui and Jordan Smith.
Meanwhile, in the battle to finish the season as Europe's No. 1, Tommy Fleetwood on eight-under needs to win in Dubai this weekend to have any chance of successfully defending his Race to Dubai title and stop the Francesco Molinari procession, and hope that Molinari finishes outside the top-five.
Wallace, though, was in confident mood.
“All aspects of my game are good at the moment,” he said.
“I feel really comfortable out there, the putter is helping me and I’m holing a lot out there. I really love this golf course and I love this tournament.
“It was massively important to me to get off to a good start, and I really had to focus in on that first putt. When you have a 25-footer on the first hole, you want to get the pace right, but I really wanted to hole it and I managed to pour it in there, and that got me going,” he added.
“It is all coming together, unfortunately at the end of the season, I do wish I had done this from the start.
“But, recently I’ve lowered my expectation levels, and that has really helped me this week. I am going to keep doing that for the rest of the weekend, and let my golf do the talking.
“That's up there with one of the best this year,” he said.
“I'm playing with freedom now and trying to place as high as I possibly can come the back nine holes on Sunday and then that's when I normally will try and kick in and want to win a tournament, depending on where I am.
“I've been in this situation before, just not in this sort of tournament. The best players are out there in the world and I just want to compete and see where my game is at against them."
Wallace also had to face being given a £3,000 ($3,860) “slow play” fine on his debut in Dubai on Thursday.
According to match referees, Wallace took too long to putt out for A par on the ninth hole, after being timed during his seventh and eighth birdie holes.
"The good thing, I guess, I paid for the fine in holing the second putt,” he said.
“Though, it was frustrating and it kind of put me out of flow for the next three to four holes.
“The thing is I don’t consider myself to be a slow player as evident in playing the three holes (7 to 9) in two-under so I saved time playing good golf.
“Hopefully, I can make up the fine by the end of this week.”