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Beijing Olympics: High winds force events to be changed, postponed as Games near end

Gate flags bend in the wind after high winds caused a delay in the start of the mixed team parallel skiing event at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, in the Yanqing district of Beijing. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati).

Organisers scrambled to reorganise the Alpine mixed team parallel race for the final day of the Beijing Olympics after high winds on Saturday forced the competition to be postponed.

Team officials and organisers agreed to hold the event, which is only its second edition, on Sunday at 9 a.m. (0100 GMT) despite several teams being scheduled to fly home.

The decision is likely to mean some teams have to rearrange their flights and accommodation bookings but it was not immediately clear if all would remain to compete.

Alpine team officials will hold their usual pre-race “captains’ meeting” at 5 p.m. when the start list will be agreed upon, and only then will it be clear how many of the 15 teams will remain in the rescheduled event.

Olympics and International Ski Federation (FIS) officials were keen to avoid the complications that would come with the rare case of an event not being held.

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Read more: Olympic skiers angry after Beijing officials cancel alpine training over high winds

Juan Antonio Samaranch, the head of the International Olympic Committee’s coordination commission for Beijing, told the IOC session that these issues were to be expected at a Winter Games.

“We had weather issues but this is Winter Games. We are coping with the difficulties still left but this is winter and we are here to celebrate exactly that: winter,” he said.

The closing ceremony for the Beijing Games is on Sunday at 8 p.m. The weather forecast for Sunday is for slightly better wind conditions earlier in the day.

On Saturday at 9 a.m., gusts were recorded as between 24 and 28 metres per second. On Sunday gusts are forecast between 19-22 m/s at that time.

The weather also disrupted competition at the National Cross-Country Centre in Zhangjiakou.

The men’s 50km cross-country mass start, one of the sport’s blue riband events, was postponed by an hour and shortened to 30km due to the high winds.

Not everybody in the field was happy with the decision.

“Of course athletes’ health comes first but we knew it was gonna be cold …. Look to other sports who moved their events a day earlier. This is not the way to go if we want to develop our sport!” Irish skier Thomas Maloney Westgaard tweeted.

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The men’s freeski halfpipe final went ahead but gusts of wind kicked up snow and skiers lost momentum on the pipe, with several crashing, as temperatures dropped to minus 22 Celsius (minus 7.6 Fahrenheit).

“It was gnarly today. And there wasn’t even a discussion about postponing or waiting a little bit or anything,” British skier Gus Kenworthy said.

The women’s 12.5 km biathlon event, originally scheduled for Saturday, was brought forward to Friday due to weather concerns.

(Reporting by Simon Evans, additional reporting by Phil O’Connor, Shadia Nasralla and Simon Jennings; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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Olympic stress and how athletes manage mental health – Feb 18, 2022

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