PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - The Olympic men’s downhill was postponed until Thursday because of high winds at the Jeongseon venue on Sunday, leaving organizers wrestling with a scheduling headache from the start of the Alpine skiing program.
The blue riband event, which traditionally opens the Alpine skiing at the Winter Olympics, will now take place at 11 am local time (0200 GMT) on Thursday in place of the Super G with the other men’s speed race shifting to Friday.
Friday had previously been a rest day in the program, which is scheduled to resume on Monday with the women’s giant slalom at the Yongpyong venue.
Gusting winds of up to 39 knots (72 kilometres per hour) have been forecast for Sunday through until Tuesday at Jeongseon, well past the point at which the gondola that moves the skiers to the top of the mountain cannot function.
Chief race director Markus Waldner had flagged the possibility of postponing the downhill as early as Wednesday and contingency plans had been drawn up for an emergency meeting of the race committee to consider.
Their first preference of moving the race forward to Saturday had been ruled out by the International Olympic Committee.
Disruption to the Alpine skiing at the Winter Olympics is not unusual and it is a rare Games where some re-jigging of the schedule is not necessary.
That is even more the case on the World Cup circuit and the racers have learned to be phlegmatic about adjustments to the program.
“I‘m ready for tomorrow, but I’ll be prepared for Monday, for Tuesday, whenever,” Swiss Beat Feuz, one of the race favorites, said on Saturday.
“We have to be flexible because no one can control the weather.”
Hannes Reichelt will go first when the race does get underway with his fellow Austrian Matthias Mayer, the defending champion, set to go out third.
World champion Feuz will be the seventh skier to go down the course ahead of Aksel Lund Svindal in ninth and the other main Norwegian contender Kjetil Jansrud in 17th.
Additional reporting by Mark Trevalyen; Editing by Ed Osmond/Greg Stutchbury