WENGEN, Switzerland (AP) - Despite a lack of snow on the upper course, preparations for the men's Olympic downhill track are on schedule.
The Turin Organizing Committee for the Olympics made that announcement Friday, three days after the International Ski Federation declared there was insufficient snow on the upper part of the course at Sestriere, Italy.
"Thanks to the constant activity of the snowmaking system, to the hard work of the technical crew and the snow brought by helicopter from the Forest Corps directly on the field of play, as of today the operations of preparation can be considered absolutely in line with the program," TOROC said in a statement.
There was 90 percent of the necessary snow on the downhill course and 80 percent along the ski-lift, TOROC said. It predicted that the snow condition on the course will be "optimal" in the upcoming days .
"Sestriere will host in a month the Olympic downhill with perfect technical and safety conditions for athletes and technicians," TOROC said.
Three days ago, World Cup race directors Helmuth Schmalzl and Guenter Hujara wrote in an official FIS report that the situation at Sestriere was "very critical."
"It is not meant to say it's a scandal, but we were there, 34 days ahead of the Olympics, and it was not ready," Hujara told The Associated Press. "It will be very, very difficult but not impossible."
Official training for the Olympic downhill starts Feb. 9, and the men's downhill starts two days later.
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) - IOC president Jacques Rogge plans to meet U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan to discuss the "Olympic Truce" for worldwide peace during the Turin Games.
They will meet Jan. 24 at the International Olympic Committee's headquarters in Lausanne, which Annan will be visiting for the first time, and then again the next day at the World Economic Forum in the mountain resort of Davos, the IOC said in a statement.
Sports have a high place on the agenda for the Davos meeting, and Rogge is expected to attend various sessions Jan. 25-26.
Olympic Cauldron Completed
TURIN, Italy (AP) - The 57-meter high Olympic cauldron tower was completed Friday.
The flame was carried by torchbearers in central Italy, less than one month before the opening ceremony in Turin.
The last segment of the tower, where the gas-fueled flame will burn Feb. 10-26, was assembled inside Turin's Olympic Stadium, organizers said.
The cauldron can be seen from all over the city.
The Olympic flame will arrive in Turin on Feb. 9 after stops in the former Olympic venues of Cortina d'Ampezzo, Albertville, Grenoble and Chamonix.
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) - A record number of countries, including Ethiopia and North Korea, are expected to take part in the Turin Olympics.
Teams from 80 or more countries are set to compete at the Feb. 10-26 Winter Games, the International Olympic Committee said Friday. The 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics set the previous winter record with 76 nations.
"The widening geographical appeal of the Olympic Winter Games is clear," the IOC said in a statement.
The east African nation of Ethiopia, which is better known for producing Olympic and world champion distance runners, is entered in the Winter Games for the first time.
Ethiopia has entered a 31-year-old skier, Robel Teklemariam, who moved to the United States in 1983. He went to high school in Colorado and attended the University of New Hampshire.
Ghana could also be represented in Turin. Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, a 31-year-old British-based skier known as the "Snow Leopard," is close to qualifying.
The North Koreans have competed at previous Winter Olympics, but missed the Salt Lake Games.