Strong Winds Taking Over Conversation In Pyeongchang
Fierce winds at the Pyeongchang Games have led to "postponements of competition and difficult conditions for some events that are continuing as scheduled," according to Madhani & Armour of USA TODAY. Today's women's giant slalom was postponed because of "strong winds and will now take place Thursday." The men’s downhill yesterday was "moved for the same reason" to Thursday. The women’s snowboard slopestyle went on as scheduled today, but the winds "wreaked havoc with only five of the 25 riders able to complete their first of two runs." POCOG spokesperson Sung Baik-you warned that more postponements of ski competitions are "possible for the days ahead with 20 mph gusts in the forecast through Wednesday." IOC Dir of Communications Mark Adams added that committee officials "weren’t concerned that the postponements would have an impact on completing all the Games on time" (USA TODAY, 2/12). In Salt Lake City, Christopher Kamrani writes the winds are "taking the first few days of these Games by hostage," throwing one of the "most popular portions of the Games into a blustery flux." The rest of the week could "potentially lead to more postponements," and the alpine events will start to be "stacked atop one another at the various venues" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 2/12).
NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT: IOC President Thomas Bach today described the Olympics as "'off to a great start' and dismissed the fact that high winds forced the first two Alpine skiing races to be rescheduled for later in the week when the cold and wind is expected to moderate." Bach: "These cancellations do not worry us at all. The international federations, with whom we have talked, they have told us there is no reason to worry. We have two weeks to go. We are an outdoor sport and we manage these kind of cancellations" (AP, 2/12). In N.Y., Bill Pennington notes officials had been "hoping to avoid running two Alpine races on the same day since it diminishes the profile of each event." However, with no Alpine events having been contested four days into the Games, officials knew they had to "start holding some races and handing out some medals as soon as possible" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/12).
SAFETY SHOULD COME FIRST: The AP's Eddie Pells notes today will go down as "one of the most unpleasant, dangerous days snowboarding has ever seen." Hundreds of fans "streamed toward the exits" while the women's snowboard slopestyle was ongoing, and the stands were "half empty as the afternoon wore on, with wind chills dipping to 5 degrees and below." Of the 50 runs, 41 "ended with a rider on her backside, or in a face plant, or ... in a slow ride toward the bottom after simply pulling up because they couldn't build enough speed to reach the crest of a ramp." Pells: "Why were organizers so quick to cancel the men's downhill Sunday and the women's giant slalom Monday in other parts of the mountains of Pyeongchang but insistent on staging both the men's and women's slopestyle contests? Both were weather-affected, watered-down affairs that did not show the sport at its best" (AP, 2/12). NBC’s Willie Geist notes the wind was “blowing so hard” during the slopestyle competition “as the jumpers went up in the air, you could actually see them being blown across and being slowed down” (“Today,” NBC, 2/12). U.S. snowboarder Jamie Anderson, who won Gold in the event, said the wind "was a huge situation.” Anderson: "I was pretty shook up, just scared" (“Winter Olympics,” NBCSN, 2/12).
WAS IT NECESSARY? Canadian snowboarder Spencer O'Brien said that "none of the riders had been consulted about going ahead, which is typical at professional events." O'Brien: "At the very least ... our opinions are taken into consideration. And that wasn't done here, on either day. I think 90 per cent of the women did not want to ride today." The GLOBE & MAIL's Cathal Kelly writes the event went on as scheduled because NBC and other broadcasters have their schedules "written in ink for months." Sponsors have "trucked VIP clients in from around the world to stand on a ski hill on a specific day, and goddammit they're going to see some snowboarding" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/12). O'Brien added, "I don’t know why we weren’t asked and I don’t know why it was ran, to be honest. Because no one wanted to go." USA TODAY's Rachel Axon writes someone could have "gotten hurt, and badly." The FIS is "lucky that didn’t happen." But even "without catastrophe, the federation did these riders a disservice" (USA TODAY, 2/12). British snowboarder Aimee Fuller: "I don't feel like I had a fair shot at putting down my best run. The wind just took me sideways on the last hit. ... It's not the best show of women's slopestyle at all" (L.A. TIMES, 2/12).