The Most Dominant Force at the Olympics? Wind


It has been a nuisance (ski events keep getting postponed), a danger (the Olympic Park in Gangneung was evacuated on Wednesday because tents and signs were blowing everywhere) to a novelty (the 20-plus-story apartment towers in the media and the athlete villages swayed enough on Wednesday to rock the hangers in the closets).

Wind greatly affected the women’s slopestyle snowboard contest on Monday, a day after qualifying runs had been canceled because of wind. In the finals, athletes crashed or essentially gave up on 41 of 50 runs. Some approached the big jumps at full speed, only to pull up at the last moment because snow made it impossible to see or the wind socks on the jumps were completely stiffened. Tess Coady of Australia blamed the wind for a knee injury sustained in a training run before the competition.

“Got picked up in the wind on the bottom jump in practice and my ACL was not a big fan!” she wrote on Instagram.

Several miles away on Monday, the women’s giant slalom competition was postponed, just as the men’s downhill had been the day before. (They both ultimately took place on Thursday, the first somewhat still day of the Games.)

It threw off training cycles and complicated the hopes of skiers like Mikaela Shiffrin, the American star who is aiming to win multiple gold medals. Because of the wind, she faced three straight days of races, hardly ideal.

For most of a week, the blowing snow created white-out conditions on the ski courses. Gondolas tilted uncomfortably in the wind, and chair lifts were shut down. Race flags were blown off their poles. Mislaid gloves blew away.

Photo

Workers tried to stop a security tent from blowing away outside the Gangneung Ice Arena on Thursday.

Credit
Aris Messinis/Agence France-Presse —

But wind is a fickle foe to plenty of winter sports, and it has affected all of the outdoor events. On the biathlon course, it was even harder than usual to shoot straight. At the ski jump, the 45-year-old veteran Noriaki Kasai of Japan said he had rarely felt such strong wind at a competition.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “The wind howls so loud it’s frightening being up there.”

The wind even put a scare into spectators milling around the complex of ice arenas close to the coast.

“Due to high winds in the Gangneung area, all activities in the common domain of the Gangneung Olympic Park have been temporarily suspended to ensure the safety of all personnel,” the Pyeongchang Olympic Committee wrote in a statement Wednesday afternoon, as temporary tents, booths and fences were upended and blown over in a sudden burst. According to Reuters, 13 volunteers and three spectators receiving minor injuries from flying debris and 60 tents were damaged.

The area was closed and fans shooed away. The giant circuslike tents that serve as workrooms for members of the news media were emptied.

Who knew it could be so windy in such a lovely place? Actually, Olympic organizers did. The Pyeongchang 2018 Organizing Committee had a “meteorology and climate team” that supplied a 26-page report about weather, updated last year.

The most dominant pattern this time of year, the report warned, was the “Siberian High,” as cold and dry winds from the northwest come with little obstruction all the way from Siberia.

“High winds and low windchill temperatures are the most influential factors in particular during the Olympic period,” the report said.

That explains the wind turbines.





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