Athletes know they’ll face stiff competition when they show up for the Winter Olympics. But in many events, the biggest challenge hasn’t been beating the times of a fellow competitor, but rather remaining upright in the face of severe winds.
On Wednesday in PyeongChang, spectators were told that they should seek shelter because of the threat of damage to tents and other temporary structures in Olympic Park from the devastating winds.
“Due to high winds in the Gangneung area, all activities in the common domain of the Gangneung Olympic Park have…temporarily been suspended to ensure the safety of all personnel,” the organizing committee said in a statement. “Spectators are being encouraged to stay indoors and general admission to the park has been suspended for the remainder of the day.”
Sustained winds of up to 23 mph were felt throughout the Olympic Park on Wednesday afternoon, with stronger gusts whipping through the area at times. Tents and small refrigerators were knocked over, and media tents had to be temporarily closed.
Events Delayed by Wind
Even some events had to be delayed because of the weather. While officials kept trying to push back the women’s slalom throughout the day, it ended up having to be cancelled for the day. Instead, they will try to get the event in on Friday.
That didn’t seem to faze the United States’ Mikaela Shiffrin. She’s the overwhelming favorite in the event, being listed at -350 odds to win gold on Bovada. Shiffrin said that weather delays are just something that all outdoor athletes have to live with.
“It is unfortunate that we weren’t able to race today, but it is important we have a fair race for all of the athletes and today’s conditions would definitely not have been fair,” Shiffrin told USA TODAY.
The 15k women’s individual biathlon was also postponed by a day due to projections of winds gusting to more than 45 mph. The event, now scheduled for Thursday, features Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier (-130), who has already won gold in the 7.5 km sprint and the 10 km pursuit events in PyeongChang.
Conditions Mar Slopestyle Competition
Earlier in the week, other events were held despite the high winds, often over the protests of the athletes themselves.
The most prominent example of this came in the women’s slopestyle competition on Monday morning. While American Jamie Anderson was able to win the gold, about 80 percent of the runs taken by competitors ended in falls, and even the top finishers were forced to play it safe, landing simpler tricks than they would normally try on the world stage.
“It’s such a shame when organizers don’t take rider safety or our opinions into consideration,” said Canadian snowboarder Spencer O’Brien, who finished in 22nd place. “We were not asked once if it was safe to ride today. That’s something with our sport that needs to change.”
According to officials, while the winds have been disruptive, they shouldn’t prevent the entire program of events from being completed before the end of the Olympic schedule.
“I guess if the wind blows for the next 11 days it might be a problem,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams. “At present, everything is okay.”