Fierce winds forced the Olympic Park in Gangneung, South Korea to close on Wednesday. The sharp gusting winds reaching 23 miles per hour howled through the Olympic park near the coast. Stronger gusts knocked over tents, signs and refrigerators. Repeatedly, the conditions have forced the events (Alpine Skiing) to be postponed, particularly in the west.
The Olympic Park was evacuated around 3pm on Wednesday, February 14th by local officials making public announcements both in English and Korean. They urged spectators to go inside seek shelter. Eventually the police helped clear the area as spectators sought shelter in buildings near the Gangneung Hockey Center. It was several hours before activities resumed. Speedskating and hockey events were rescheduled.
A tongue-in-cheek performance by the Dutch oompah band Kleintje Pils of ‘Stormy’ entertained spectators and athletes alike.
The weather conditions of this Olympic games has been a hot (cold) topic in the news, but by Wednesday, the temperatures seemed to have leveled out. No one was expecting the next hurdle to be the intense wind conditions. Gusts topped 45 miles per hour and forced three or four Alpine ski races to be postponed. Included in the postponed events were the women’s biathlon at the Alpensia Biathlon Center. It has been rescheduled for Thursday, February 15th.
Why Close The Olympic Park For Wind Gusts?
Wind can make ski racing extremely hazardous for athletes. They’re already traveling as fast as 75 miles per hour and in events like slalom, wind gusts and directional changes can be perceived as unfair. Some skiers may get a helpful boost from a strong tail wins. Others could be injured by devastating headwinds.
15 mile per hour winds also postponed the women’s biathlon simply because the wind gusts make it more difficult for the athletes to handle their rifles.
U.S. women’s Alpine coach Paul Kristofic was quoted stating that “All of them (the women’s Alpine Team) are anxious to race, absolutely, but they all want to race in fair conditions. That’s the main thing. To have unstable wind like that for one racer and not for the other, it creates not the best sporting event.”
Spectators and athletes alike were polite and calm during the evacuation. No injuries were reported and everyone seemed to maintain a positive attitude. As people moved indoors, the indoor sport competitions weren’t affected by delays, but they did become crowded. The conditions surrounding some of the indoor venues were treacherous. Several venues, including media centers and venues hosted in giant tents which were anchored with metal beams, were temporarily closed until the intense winds subsided.
The Women’s slalom was actually cancelled on Wednesday morning. It had already been rescheduled four times and has currently been postponed until Friday, February 16th.
Mikaela Shiffrin USA, is favored to win gold. She said it perfectly, “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. Weather delays and postponements are just the nature of an outdoor sport, but we’ll continue to take it day by day and I look forward to getting in the start gate.”