Olympics live: Snow and wind cancel events in Beijing

Mathieu Faivre of France in his giant slalom race on Sunday at the National Alpine Center in Yanqing. Credit… Hiroko Masuike/The New Y...


Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

For a week, the Winter Games were successfully held almost entirely on artificial snow. It was the real thing that caused the most problems.

A blizzard blanketed Beijing and the surrounding mountains on Sunday, wreaking havoc, particularly on the heights of Yanqing, where the alpine skiing venue was trying to hold a practice race for women and the giant slalom competition for men.

Officials canceled women’s practice, but decided to go ahead with the men’s giant slalom in what looked like a whiteout. They delayed the start of the second run by 75 minutes to get the course in shape, using heavy machinery called snow cats, and hoped that forecasts of less snowfall would come true. During the competition, the course workers ducked and slid sideways on the trail to try and smooth out the new snow.

The skiers would rather run on a hard, consistent and even icy surface than try to navigate their way through six inches of fresh powder, which they faced throughout the morning and into the second run. in the early afternoon.

Lucas Braathen of Norway said working in the snow exhausts the body a lot more than descending a traditionally groomed course.

“The problem is you’re in slick snow and then all of a sudden you’re in tough conditions and you can’t tell what’s next,” he said.

Visibility was minimal, with skiers barely able to see beyond the next gate and unable to discern safe terrain from more slippery and treacherous terrain as they passed through the 49 gates on the steep, narrow slope nicknamed Ice River.

“It’s tough, but we ran in tougher conditions so we knew we were going to push on,” said Luca de Aliprandini of Italy, the second man to come down the mountain.

This was not supposed to happen in Beijing, where rainfall is minimal. The city and nearby mountains have seen less than 2.5 inches of precipitation per season on average for the past few decades, according to data from a weather station near Olympic venues.

Organizers needed to collect more than a million cubic meters of water, enough to fill 400 Olympic swimming pools, cover snow sports tracks and half-pipes, according to TechnoAlpin, which makes artificial snow. To pull it all together, Chinese authorities have built pumping stations to transport water from reservoirs miles away.

It seemed pointless on Sunday, when the storm wreaked havoc with many competitors at the Center National Alpin. Of the 89 skiers who started the race, 33 failed to clear the first run and qualify for the second. And it wasn’t just the novices. Skiers from non-traditional ski countries like Haiti and Ghana struggled. But so was Ryan Cochran-Siegle, the American who won the silver medal in the super-G last week. He skied, as did the Norwegian rising Atle McGrath and several other great competitors on the World Cup circuit.

Conditions deteriorated and slowed as the race progressed, which meant starting early in the first run proved to be a major advantage. In the second run, however, the fastest 30 skiers start in reverse order, which could put the early leaders at a major disadvantage by the end of the race.

“The conditions are the same for all men,” said Adam Zampa from Slovakia. “I don’t know whether to say we should have delayed. It’s funny because every day we’ve been here it’s been sunny and every day after today it’ll be sunny.

Race 1

Race 2

Time

SUI Flag

Switzerland

1:02.93

1:06.42

2:09.35

S.L.O. Flag

Slovenia

1:03.71

1:05.83

2:09.54

French flag

France

1:03.01

1:07.68

2:10.69

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Newsrust - US Top News: Olympics live: Snow and wind cancel events in Beijing
Olympics live: Snow and wind cancel events in Beijing
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