High winds delay men’s downhill skiing

The showpiece event of the men’s alpine Olympic program at the Beijing Winter Games was postponed on Sunday after high winds forced a two-hour delay before organizers canceled it for the day.

Organizers were due to meet later on Sunday to discuss when to put the race on the schedule, with Monday the most likely option.

“Due to the current weather situation with gusty winds and updated forecasts, the jury and organizer have decided, in the best interest of safety and fairness for the riders, to postpone the Olympic downhill from today to another day,” organizers said in a statement.

Monday’s scheduled event is the women’s giant slalom, which will take place on the technical course adjacent to ‘The Rock’ speed course.

Similar winds in the upper and middle sections of the course led to the cancellation of Saturday’s third practice session after only three skiers completed their run.

While no fans were able to attend the race, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach had arrived at the course, which is made of artificial snow, to watch the event.

Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, the event favourite, backed the decision but said the skiers might have to contend with some degree of wind.

“We’ll see, we just have to be patient and make sure we make the right decisions,” said the World Cup downhill leader.

“If we’re talking about our safety there’s not much we can do about it. But if it’s just a tiny bit so it’s safe to ski, then we might have to run with the wind and take what we will have.

“It’s an outdoor sport, and we know the wind and the things that can happen,” added Kilde, who hopes there will be less waiting if a similar situation occurs.

“It’s just a lot of lack of energy when you have to prepare for such a long day and then suddenly at 2 p.m. they have to make a decision. Let’s see if they can make a decision earlier in the future and hope for the best.”

French veteran Johan Clarey backed the decision. “I think the conditions weren’t safe for everyone, so safety first,” said the 41-year-old.