I’m not saying the weather is inconvenient at these Olympics. I’m saying it blows.
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — The lead character in these Olympics isn’t Chloe Kim or Shaun White, sorry to say. It isn’t the rogue Russians competing without Russian colors, or the mesmerizing (read: kinda creepy) North Korean cheerleaders, eerily singing and waving in unison. No, the lead character is the cold. And by cold, I mean people from Duluth would huddle around a fire and reach for hand warmers. Siberia’s really not that far away.
Except, as I write this Wednesday evening over here, it’s near 50 degrees. The cold has been shoved aside and upstaged. There is a new character. It is the wind. And by wind, I mean an unrelenting breeze that has set off car alarms, impaled sand into skin, toppled concession stands and forced officials to shut down an entire cluster of venues — sending everyone inside, lest they blow from PyeongChang to Pyongyang.
“You’re going up the chairlift, and you see these little tornadoes,” Sarka Panchova, a Czech snowboarder, told reporters, “and you’re like, ‘What is this?’”
What it is: a circumstance that could carry the carefully crafted Olympic schedule from Kansas to Oz. The first alteration was the men’s downhill, a marquee Olympic event that becomes flat-out dangerous in gusts. That casualty came Sunday. Conditions weren’t safe. Officials will try to resuscitate the downhill Thursday. But now, it will be wedged between runs of the women’s giant slalom, which was blown from Monday to Thursday. Mikaela Shiffrin, the Americans’ best hope in the Alpine events, was supposed to have two races completed by Wednesday evening. She has zero.
But it’s not the cancellations that have been controversial.
“The No. 1 thing is safety, and the next thing is to have a good fair race,” Paul Kristofic, the head women’s Alpine coach for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, said after Wednesday’s slalom was kicked to Friday. “And neither of those were really achievable today.”