BEIJING — Heavy snowfall — the real kind — disrupted Olympic events Sunday, reminding participants that this is a winter event. Amid the snow and fog, skiers taking to the slopes struggled to fight against their main competitor: Mother Nature.
Beijing organizers have created their ski and snowboarding courses out of almost entirely human-made snow. The real snow altered those conditions for athletes competing Sunday afternoon.
In response, organizers postponed training for women's downhill and qualifiers for women's freeski slopestyle.
At the Yanqing alpine ski venue — a location in the mountainous northwest of Beijing — snow was forecast to fall all day and it has. Crews were dispatched to remove excess snow with plows (big and small) and trucks to clear the competition area. Eventually, the first run of the men's giant slalom went ahead as scheduled — despite visibility issues for the competitors. The second run was delayed.
In giant slalom — a technical competition — athletes must ski between poles, called gates, until the end of the course.
Thirty-three skiers were unable to finish the first qualifier. They stumbled in the snow as they wobbled and weaved down the slope. Many fell or skied off course entirely due to low visibility. Others tumbled down the mountain — falling skies over poles — and getting buried in the fluffy white snow.
Henrik Kristoffersen, of Norway, said succinctly of the visibility, that he couldn't see s**t.
He still managed to get to the bottom of the course in 27th place.
The skiers who didn't complete their run said they were ultimately fine with race organizers going ahead with the competition.
"For sure it is frustrating. For sure it's not what I was hoping for but it's part of the game, part of the sport," Switzerland's Loic Meillard, who didn't finish, said. "We've raced in conditions like that, it's not the first time."