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Nepal Joins Winter Olympics

February, 2002

Nepal news


Firstly I must sincerely apologise to all the regular readers of my column. For the past few weeks I have been entirely absorbed in preparing the first ever representation for Nepal at the Winter Olympic Games in America. It has been far more difficult than I ever imagined and my duties as the Nepal Ski Team manager and coach have dominated my time.

I am writing from the Olympic Village in Salt Lake City where 3,500 athletes and officials from 80 nations have gathered to celebrate these games. It is an amazing experience to live alongside the greatest figures in winter sports and a unique privilege to write from inside the camp. But I cannot divulge all the drama that happens here for that would betray the trust of all those I meet. At Salt Lake City I must first be a fellow sportsman to all the wonderful athletes competing here and my journalism must respect this important Olympic principle.

Nonetheless there is much to write about. Whatever personal opinion we may have about American government and foreign policy, there can be no doubt that the American people are wonderful hosts. Certainly this is true here in Utah State. I have personally experienced overwhelming kindness from all the local people I have met. The streets are lined with hundreds of cheering people as we make our way to the competitions. Thousands of volunteers have given their time entirely free of charge to assist every team. And they have done so with great kindness and humanity.

Last Friday a student was sent to escort the Nepal team to the Opening Ceremony that was to take place about a mile from the accommodation village. Having only just returned from training 85 kilometres away in the most terrible weather conditions, we were rushed for time. And just before reaching the Stadium I discovered that I had forgotten to take a camera film with me. Of course I was nearly heartbroken. After working for four years to get our athlete Jay Khadka into the Olympics the thought of having no personal photographs to remember the occasion was terrible.

But our young host immediately gave me his only spare film. And when my camera battery suddenly died a few seconds after loading it he made an even greater sacrifice. Without a moment's thought he gave me the battery from his own camera and thereby lost any chance of recording his own memories. I was overcome with gratitude. This young man displayed the greatest model of humanity. He showed us all that ordinary people cannot be held responsible for the attitude of their governments. And he revealed how the true spirit of the Olympics can blossom even outside the sporting world.

Jay Khadka cannot win his races at these games. In fact he will be lucky not to finish last. All his training over the past four seasons has been directed at Įlpine'skiing where the athletes use heavy stiff skis to plunge down steep slopes at great speed. He achieved tremendous results and won several good races. But last season was a disaster for him. He broke his arm in January preparing for a top-level race and badly damaged a knee ligament within days of returning into training. After spending several months recovering we knew that it was impossible for him to qualify for these Games in that type of skiing. Only athletes in the top 500 skiers of the World may fully qualify and Jay was forced to find an easier route.

Three months ago he began to train in an entirely different type of skiing known as 'Cross Country'. In this discipline athletes use much lighter equipment but must ski up hill as well as down. It requires no expensive lift equipment and might easily be introduced into Nepal without great investment. Jay was very keen to show the potential of this sport and so he trained extremely hard in order to qualify for these games. He achieved that within 6 weeks of starting the sport. I think it was an immense achievement and we should only hope for his safe completion of his events and perhaps a personal best points score. He will race in the 10km event on the 14th. February and the Sprint on the 19th.

In the time that we have been preparing for these Olympics I see that much has happened in Nepal. Hundreds more of our citizens have been killed in the terrible civil war and there seems no end to the crisis. The nation is rapidly becoming bankrupt with security costs rising every day. Attitudes about the monarchy are changing and the crown no longer enjoys the same hallowed position established under His Late Majesty King Birendra. And the weather has changed as well. Considerable snowfalls have taken place across Nepal and the whole pattern of seasonal precipitation seems to be changing.

I shall write more on these subjects when these games are over. But for the moment I should like to share a personal memory that has inspired Jay and I to reach these Olympic Games. The late King Birendra heard that I had been a ski racer in my youth and he knew that his sons also enjoyed the sport. Accordingly he strongly supported our efforts to create a national team and gave Jay and I his personal encouragement to succeed. At this wonderful moment of completing the long road to reach the Winter Olympic Games, we would both like to dedicate this achievement to the memory of His Later Majesty. I rather think he is looking from the heavens with a happy smile on face.

Further information on the Nepal Winter Olympic bid may be found at www.chezjayski.com/Olympics.

With my best wishes to you all,