High Winds Disrupt End of Winter Olympics

by TK Sanders

High winds in Beijing caused a cross-country ski race to be postponed to Sunday, the final day of the Winter Games. Any changes in scheduling come with heavy logistical challenges for all parties involved. Many participants of the Alpine mixed team parallel race had to rebook local transportation and flights due to the disruption.

Officials recorded gusts up to 60 mph on Saturday, making the track too treacherous to compete. Sunday should provide better conditions, though it will still be windy. Gusts of up to 50 mph are expected during the new race date.

Olympics and International Ski Federation (FIS) officials must make snap decisions that are in the best interests of all involved, yet sometimes those decisions do not satisfy everyone. For instance, the Federation had to shorten the men’s 50K cross-country race to 30K due to weather; and some athletes expressed their disapproval.

“[International Ski Federation] have just shortened the Olympic 50km to a 28km because it’s a bit cold and windy. I don’t see that that will make it any warmer or less wind,” tweeted British skier Andrew Musgrave.

The men’s freeski halfpipe final proceeded as planned Saturday despite the heavy winds. The event did see a number of participants fall, however, in their final runs for a medal.

“It was gnarly today. And there wasn’t a discussion about postponing or waiting a little bit or anything,” another British skier, Gus Kenworthy, said; affirming that opinions regarding weather often fluctuate based on personal experience.

From human rights violations to doping allegations, controversy surrounds the 2022 Winter Olympics

In other Winter Olympics drama (of which there has been plenty), the poor performance of 15-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva in Thursday night’s long-form routine drew an audience of 10.3 million. It was a 15 percent bump in viewership over the previous night’s high.

Valieva, the gold medal favorite accused of more Russian doping (and also just a child), made mistakes on her first four jumps and burst into tears at the conclusion of her skate. She finished in fourth place, behind two of her teammates, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, who took gold and silver, respectively.

After the program, all sorts of emotions ensued prior to the medal ceremony. Shcherbakova found herself utterly alone, clutching a stuffed animal, while her Russian coaches flocked to Valieva, who was sadly succumbing to the enormous pressure she had felt in the lead-up to the Games. Shcherbakova should have been enjoying her gold medal moment; instead the scene was pure turmoil and grief, with the second-place Trusova also visibly upset with the final results.

All told, it was a riveting night of televised drama in an Olympics that has been laden with controversy from the start.