Pyeongchang : High winds caused havoc at the Pyeongchang Winter Games on Monday as Olympics chief Thomas Bach dismissed concerns North Korea had tried to “hijack” the competition for political gain.
Angry snowboarders lashed out at organisers after the women’s slopestyle final was held in heavy gusts, causing nearly every competitor to take a tumble.
It came after the women’s giant slalom, featuring America’s Mikaela Shiffrin, was postponed until Thursday because of the wind — a day after the men’s downhill suffered the same fate.
While the skiing was postponed, the slopestyle went ahead with near-farcical results, as athlete after athlete hit the deck including gold medal-winner Jamie Anderson.
“The weather was bad and too dangerous,” said bronze medallist Enni Rukajarvi, while Austria’s Anna Gasser added: “So many people got hurt because of the wind.”
The International Ski Federation (FIS) admitted that conditions were “challenging” but defended the decision to go ahead with the event.
“FIS always aims for the athletes to be able to stage their best performances, which some athletes have expressed was not the case today,” a statement said.
“But the nature of outdoor sports also requires adapting to the elements.”
Heavyweights Canada won their first gold of the Games in the team figure skating, while the Olympic Athletes from Russia took silver to add to their earlier short-track bronze.
Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier won biathlon’s 10km pursuit for her second victory in Pyeongchang, before France’s Martin Fourcade took out the men’s 12.5km pursuit.
“It was really cold and on the shooting range we had a lot of wind,” Dahlmeier said.
Extreme conditions — including deep-freeze cold, a fire warning and even a minor earthquake on Sunday — have been a feature of the early days of the Games in South Korea.
North Korea, with their high-level delegation and large, female cheering squad, have also been front and centre in what has been seen as a propaganda coup for the isolated state.
But Bach, the International Olympic Committee president, played down concerns that North Korea was manipulating the Games to suit its own agenda.
“This is about sport and this the IOC made very clear,” Bach, who will visit North Korea after the Olympics, said in an interview.
“This is about the role of sport to build bridges, to open doors and nothing more.
“It’s just a symbol for sport and it’s a symbol for the fact that when you go over these bridges you can come to a positive result.”
North and South Korea marched together in the opening ceremony and on Monday they will play their second women’s ice hockey match together as a unified team.
However, some South Koreans are sceptical about the sudden rapprochement, while US Vice-President Mike Pence said North Korea was trying to “hijack the message and imagery” of the Olympics.
Separately, Japan’s figure skating superstar Yuzuru Hanyu took to the ice for his first training session — which lasted less than 15 minutes.
The defending champion, who has been recovering from ankle ligament damage, suffered a scary moment when he slipped and fell as he departed — before getting up with a wry smile.