Beijing Olympics: daunting conditions to finish the Games

This is a first in the history of Olympism. In Zhangjiakou, competitors in the mass start (mass start) of 50 km in cross-country skiing will have traveled… 28.4 km. This Saturday, February 19, they learned less than an hour from the start of the race that the queen event was cut by 20 kilometers, and delayed by an hour.

→ ANALYSIS. Beijing Olympics: athletes struggling with the cold weather

The reason ? The ” strong winds “, and the ” extreme climatic conditions who rule here in Zhangjiakou. ” The decision was made for the safety of the athletes, to reduce their duration of exposure to these conditions “, explains the race director of the international ski federation.

Protected cheeks

I don’t see how reducing the run to 28 km makes it less cold and windy “, reacted very quickly the British skier Andrew Musgrave. ” If it’s for the wind, they could have decided it the day before and not an hour in advance “, also regrets the French Maurice Manificat (10th), “ very disappointed by the decision, and not destabilized by the climatic conditions.

At 3 p.m. (8 a.m. French time) on the Olympic starting line, the mercury dropped to – 15.5 degrees, for a feeling (temperature taking into account the effect of the wind) at – 20.2 degrees. Races can be canceled below -20 degrees.

Since the start of the Games, it’s been one of the worst days. We feel that it pulls on the bronchial tubes, and the fingers also suffer from the cold », Says Jules Lapierre (15th). Of the athletes, only the eyes were visible – their faces being protected from burns by colored tape.

strong gusts

Last week, the organizing committee warned that Games meteorologists would share their data with technical experts from international federations, who would decide on any postponements. The snow and the wind had already caused reorganizations at the end of the first week.

This Saturday, the cross-country skiing event was held even though the women’s mass start biathlon event, initially scheduled for the same day, was brought forward by one day due to weather conditions. The two sites are however only a few hundred meters apart, but the wind is particularly penalizing on the biathletes’ shooting range. Friday, the latter did not escape strong gusts, and they crossed the line with the face marked by the cold.

→ CHRONICLE. Beijing Olympics: in the bubble, pin fever

100 km away, in Yanqing, the wind is also in the game this Saturday. The team alpine skiing event has therefore been postponed to Sunday morning, the last day of the Olympic fortnight. But the weather reports are hardly more reassuring.


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