PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - Alpine skiing organizers are trying to be creative to get the Olympic program up and running after the first two days of competition were postponed because of high winds.
The men’s downhill and women’s giant slalom have both been moved to Thursday and there was more hope than expectation at the team captain’s briefing for Tuesday’s event, the men’s combined.
“We don’t see great changes for tomorrow or Wednesday,” men’s chief race director Markus Waldner said at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre, venue for the speed races.
“We all know with big wind gusts it’s not possible to put on speed races.
“Tomorrow could be a challenging day. Or it might be a very easy day if we wake up and the gondola isn’t running.”
Winds in excess of 70 kilometers per hour prevented the gondola that carries the skiers to the top of the mountain from running on Sunday, causing the downhill to be postponed.
If the gondola is running, organizers will try everything to get some racing going, delaying the downhill run by an hour at a time until 2 pm (0500 GMT) rather than postponing it in the hope that better conditions might emerge.
Any delay to the 11.30 am (0230 GMT) start time would immediately trigger a decision to run the slalom element of the combined event under lights as a night race at 6 pm (0900 GMT), Waldner said.
Laughter rumbled through the room when Waldner asked for a weather forecast for Wednesday, when the women’s slalom is scheduled for Yongpyong, only to be met with a single phrase from the local meteorologist.
“Wednesday will be very windy,” he said, with the emphasis firmly on the “very”.
Hopes are high that the winds will ease on Thursday, allowing both the men’s downhill at the Jeongseon mountain and the women’s giant slalom at Yongpyong to go ahead. The men’s Super G has been rescheduled for Friday, which was due to be a rest day.
“We are confident especially for Thursday,” Waldner said, adding that the men’s downhill had now been moved back half an hour to 11.30 am local time to allow the women’s race to start later.
The first run of the giant slalom will now be at 10.00 am local time on Thursday with the second run starting at 1.45 pm, organizers confirmed on Monday evening.
Waldner also said he had a plan to get the men’s downhill racers on to the Jeongseon piste on Wednesday but was not able to give full details until it had been approved by the International Olympic Committee.
Disruption to the Alpine skiing schedule has been a regular feature of the Winter Olympics over the years with organizers leaving plenty of room for maneuver in the scheduling.
The icy winds that tore through the Pyeongchang mountains on Monday also wreaked havoc at a snowboard final, raising questions about athlete safety.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Ed Osmond