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Olympics-Organisers scramble as weather disrupts penultimate day


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YANQING — Organizers scrambled to reorganize the Alpine mixed team parallel race for the final day of the Beijing Olympics after high winds on Saturday forced the competition to be postponed.

Team officials and organizers have agreed to hold the event, which is only its second edition, on Sunday at 9 a.m. (0100 GMT) despite several teams being originally scheduled to fly home.

The decision meant some teams had to rearrange their flights and accommodation bookings, but all the 15 nations entered in the competition confirmed they will participate on Sunday.

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Olympics and International Ski Federation (FIS) officials said they were keen to complete the event and expected the weather to be “a little better” especially in the earlier part of the day.

A spokeswoman for the U.S ski team said that most of their squad and support staff were due to leave early on Sunday morning but that changes were being made to allow them to stay.

Juan Antonio Samaranch, the head of the International Olympic Committee’s coordination commission for Beijing, told an IOC session that these issues were to be expected at a Winter Games.

“We had weather issues but this is Winter Games. We are coping with the difficulties still left but this is winter and we are here to celebrate exactly that: winter,” he said.

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The closing ceremony for the Beijing Games is on Sunday at 8 p.m. The weather forecast for Sunday is for slightly better wind conditions earlier in the day.

On Saturday at 9 a.m., gusts were recorded as between 24 and 28 meters per second. On Sunday gusts are forecast between 19-22 m/s at that time.

The weather also disrupted competition at the National Cross-Country Centre in Zhangjiakou.

The men’s 50 km cross-country mass start, one of the sport’s blue riband events, was postponed by an hour and shortened to 30km due to the high winds.

Not everybody in the field was happy with the decision.

“Of course athletes health comes first but we knew it was gonna be cold … Look to other sports who moved their events a day earlier. This is not the way to go if we want to develop our sport!” Irish skier Thomas Maloney Westgaard tweeted.

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The men’s freeski halfpipe final went ahead but gusts of wind kicked up snow and skiers lost momentum on the pipe, with several crashing, as temperatures dropped to minus 22 Celsius (minus 7.6 Fahrenheit).

“It was gnarly today. And there wasn’t even a discussion about postponing or waiting a little bit or anything,” British skier Gus Kenworthy said.

The women’s 12.5 km biathlon event, originally scheduled for Saturday, was brought forward to Friday due to weather concerns. (Reporting by Simon Evans, additional reporting by Phil O’Connor, Mari Saito, Shadia Nasralla and Simon Jennings; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Himani Sarkar)

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