British participation in jeopardy

LONDON -- British Olympic officials are preparing a contingency plan in case the national ski and snowboard federation goes bankrupt before next month's Winter Games in Vancouver.

The British Ski and Snowboard Federation could go into financial administration unless it receives $326,000 in funding by the end of January.

The crisis could threaten the participation in the Feb. 12-28 Olympics of 15 British athletes, including Alpine skier Chemmy Alcott and snowboarder Zoe Gillings.

But the British Olympic Association said Thursday it was working to make sure no athlete would miss the Games because of the financial problems.

"The BOA's absolute priority is to do everything possible to ensure that the athletes are able to compete in the Vancouver Games as members of Team GB," BOA chief executive Andy Hunt said in a statement. "We have developed a contingency plan and, should it become necessary to do so, will submit it to our board for consideration.

"We are in communication with the relevant team leaders and officials to reassure them that we are monitoring the situation closely and are doing everything we can to support them."

The BOA declined to give details of the contingency plan.

BSSF chairman Oliver Jones said the crisis stemmed from a loss of private funding.

"Administration is only one of a number of outcomes which may come out of this," he said in The Times of London. "The federation has had a particularly difficult year, made worse by the economic background."

Britain is expected to send about 50 athletes to Vancouver to compete in six sports -- biathlon, bobsled, curling, luge, skating and skiing.

Alcott and Gillings would be two key members of that team.

In 2007, Alcott became the first British woman to qualify for and race in the World Cup finals, and has several top 10 finishes in World Cup races in downhill, giant slalom and super-combined events.

Alcott finished 14th in the combined event at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and was 11th in the downhill at the 2006 Turin Games.

Gilling's first appearance in the Olympics was in 2006, when she finished 15th in the snowboardcross. She was third in a World Cup event in Italy last year.