Weather delays have plagued Alpine races at the Winter Olympics for more than 50 years. It is a natural consequence of the typical Winter Games setting, where altitude and a seasonable climate can lead to excessive snow and high winds. Either one can make a ski course unsafe.
Although the Alpine courses at the Pyeongchang Olympics are not at an especially high elevation for an Olympics (less than 4,000 feet), strong, gusty winds of 40 to 60 mph this week have whipped through the valleys and mountain passes.
The conditions caused the postponement of the men’s downhill here on Sunday. On Monday, the women’s giant slalom was called off as well, despite bright sun. The swirling winds were so harsh it was hard to keep the cloth panels used to mark the gates affixed to the gate poles.
The Olympic Alpine calendar included days built into the schedule in case of weather delays when it was formed months ago. But with the weather not expected to improve until Wednesday, Olympic officials on Monday gave in to the weather.
Officials had been hoping to avoid running two Alpine races on the same day since it diminishes the profile of each event. Over the years, they have been especially protective of the men’s downhill, the most daredevil Alpine event and a signature race of any Winter Olympics.
But Monday, with no Alpine events having been contested four days into the Pyeongchang Olympics, officials knew they had to start holding some races and handing out some medals as soon as possible. As a result, the women’s giant slalom was rescheduled for Thursday, the same day that the postponed men’s downhill will be held.
Such a scenario has happened before, but it is a signal that Olympic officials, and perhaps U.S. television executives, were increasingly vexed that the windblown Pyeongchang Games were listing through the first week of competition without one of the featured sports.
The revised Alpine calendar also means American skier Mikaela Shiffrin’s first race at the Pyeongchang Olympics is set to be her best event, the women’s slalom.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
Source: Pulse. Ng