Vancouver Olympics weathering the storm
VANCOUVER, B.C. – The sun showed up here Sunday, a welcome sign to the decidedly cheery residents of this city and the organizers of these Winter Games who are dead set on not letting temperamental weather or a malfunctioning torch cauldron in the opening ceremonies rain on Vancouver’s parade.
Still, it’s hard to argue that this was the start organizers envisioned.
The death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili in a Friday training run cast a pall over that night’s opening celebration, and the subsequent controversy has dominated headlines in the days since.
There’s also the uncooperative wet weather, which has repeatedly delayed the alpine skiing events at Whistler and made life miserable for course workers and officials trying to pull off outdoor events.
Organizers postponed a women’s downhill training run Sunday at Whistler, the fourth straight day that rain and wet snow interrupted the alpine schedule. The men’s downhill – the high-speed showcase event of alpine – is set to be run today, weather permitting.
It’s enough to make proud Canucks go crazy, but Chris Rudge, the Canada Olympic Committee’s chief executive officer, said at a press conference Sunday that organizers remained unbowed.
“At some point, will it be a problem?” he said. “If we were sitting here with four days left and hadn’t run any events, that would be a concern. But that’s not going to happen.”
Before Alexandre Bilodeau claimed gold Sunday night, Rudge also was unfazed by the growing concern that Canada could have gotten shut out of a gold medal again in another home Olympics. Worries grew after two of its best athletes, speed skater Charles Hamelin and moguls skier Jennifer Heil, failed to deliver Saturday.
“It’s not something that’s been a major issue for us. It’s going to happen,” he said, presciently.
Heil said nearly the same thing Saturday night, after getting bumped by U.S. skier Hannah Kearney and settling for silver in the sopping rain at Cypress Mountain, then facing a firing line of Canadian reporters.
“Consolation Prize” was the headline that ran next to a photo of a solemn Heil in the sports section of Sunday’s edition of Canada’s largest paper, The Globe and Mail.
“There’s no doubt about it, I was going for gold,” she said.
She added: “For me, I really didn’t see the difference in the value of what day a medal is won. Canadians can be assured that that [gold] medal is coming on home soil.”
Canadians sure hope so.
In the same paper, national columnist Gary Mason said the Vancouver Games had gotten off to a disconcerting start, and that while it’s too early to tell, the lousy weather, the luge controversy and any more bad news could define these Olympics.
“False or not, there has been a tone set for these Games, and it isn’t exactly positive,” wrote Mason. “Obviously, the death of Mr. Kumaritashvili has played a central role in that.”
South of the border, the spin couldn’t be more different. The delays and cancellations at Whistler were a welcome respite for Vail’s Lindsey Vonn to let her severely bruised shin heal. It was also good news for each entity – NBC, the U.S. Ski Team, and numerous corporate sponsors – who have a stake in how well the U.S. athlete with the most fanfare coming into these Games does here.
With Sunday’s women’s downhill training run postponed again, Vonn isn’t expected to race until likely Wednesday, in the downhill, since Sunday’s cancellation means Tuesday’s rescheduled combine (a downhill and a slalom) will, by rule, have to be pushed back. Women must complete one full training run in downhill in order to hold a race in either discipline. On Sunday, race organizers didn’t immediately reschedule a training run, as in previous days.
Vonn, on her Twitter page Saturday, said her shin was feeling better.
“Just sitting in my condo up here in Whistler baking some banana bread and watching the rain continue to come down,” she wrote. “I had a full day off from skiing today did a lot of therapy and worked out. A DH training run has been rescheduled for tomorrow @ 11am. My shin is feeling better and better each day I am excited to get a chance to test it out tomorrow.”
Other U.S. athletes weren’t as stoked on the rain.
Boardercrosser Nate Holland of Truckee, Calif., wrote on his Twitter page Saturday: “Falling to sleep while rain pounds on the roof, sounds like tomorrow will be another wet one.”
Meanwhile, Vonn’s teammate Julia Mancuso took Sunday to go ski some powder.
“I’m going skiing!! see a patch of blue sky!! oh yeah…” she wrote on her Twitter page.
Vancouver can only hope there’s more where that came from.
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