Pyeongchang (South Korea) (AFP) – The alpine skiing programme at the Olympics was thrown into chaos on Wednesday with the postponement of a third event, the women’s slalom, because of strong winds.
“Due to the current weather situation, today’s slalom is postponed to Friday, February 16,” the International Ski Federation (FIS) announced.
The two legs of the slalom will be raced either side of the men’s super-G, at 10:00 am (0100 GMT) and 13:15.
Strong winds buffeted the Rainbow course in Yongpyong, forcing organisers to delay the start then call it off altogether.
It means another delay for defending slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin’s opening appearance in South Korea, the American star having seen the giant slalom postponed on Monday.
The GS was rescheduled for Thursday, with the two legs to be raced either side of the men’s downhill.
The blue riband downhill was also postponed Sunday because of high winds and an unfavourable weather forecast which saw the cancellation of Monday’s downhill training for the men’s combined event.
So far the only race to have gone ahead is the men’s combined on Tuesday, Austrian Marcel Hirscher winning his first Olympic gold on the Jeongseon course.
But that race was also disrupted. The downhill section of the combined was also affected by blustery winds, officials moving the start gate down to the start of the super-G. The so-called blue “wind line” was also used to reduce jumps by up to 15 metres.
Wednesday’s postponement meant disappointment for a good crowd that had gathered at the foot of a piste that links back into Yongpyong, South Korea’s oldest ski resort, dating back to 1975.
With North Korea’s Kim Ryon-Hyang due to start in the 83rd and final position on the first leg, the stands were buoyed by the presence of dozens of her country’s Olympic cheerleaders.
– ‘Pretty happy’ –
Dressed in their red uniforms with red and white woolly hats, the cheerleaders’ chanting and flag-waving quickly geed up the atmosphere, until the FIS announcement of the postponement sent the crowds draining away in an instant.
Given that skiing is an outdoor event, at the mercy of the elements, its Olympic programme is always designed with contingencies at hand.
The 11 medal events are run over 17 days, the scheduling allowing FIS to be able to tinker with the line-up. That normally means bringing forward more technical events like slalom and giant slalom which can be raced in heavy snow and also often in wind.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it had faith in FIS, adding there was “plenty” of time left for the competition.
“If the wind continues to blow for the next 15 days then I guess it might be a problem,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.
“But… the International Ski Federation is well used to disruption by wind, by too much snow, by too little snow, by too much rain… At the moment we’re pretty happy.”
There is no doubt, however, that FIS will be desperately hoping the winds that have been pummelling the South Korean venues soon dissipate.