Skiers hot under the collar in Sochi heat wave
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It's meant to be the winter Olympics but on the slopes of Sochi, the heat is on, and competitors aren’t very happy.
The official slogan of the Sochi Games is "Hot. Cool. Yours." For those who compete on snow, there has been too much of the first element. After the 15-kilometre classical race on Friday, it was clear that for some, the temperature had put the cross into cross country.
“I became a winter athlete to do my sport in winter, not in summer,” Alex Teichmann, a German cross-country skier, said after finishing eighth. “That was definitely the warmest race of my career.”
Dario Cologna won the race wearing short sleeves and sunglasses in the spring-like weather at the Cross Country and Biathlon centre at Krasnaya Polyana.
“You have to be prepared for every condition,” said Cologna, a veteran Swiss skier. “It was very tough today, but I think it's not a big surprise that it would be warm here in Sochi.”
Several other competitors raced in short sleeves. Chris Andre Jespersen from Norway had modified his suit by cutting off the pants halfway down his thigh.
These are the most summer-like Winter Games in more than 20 years. In 1988 in Calgary, the temperature rose to 22 degrees centigrade, causing more than 30 postponements.
“It is a constant battle for winter sports,” said Mark Adams, the International Olympic Committee spokesman. “We are relaxed.”
On the ski slopes, spectators have been sun bathing. Down in Sochi, a Black Sea resort, the weather has been warm enough to make the beach attractive for bathers.
On Thursday, the men's freestyle skiing aerials event was cancelled because of the high temperatures. On Friday, ski cross-training and freestyle skiing training sessions were cancelled. Saturday's halfpipe skiing training session has also been called off.
Colder weather is forecast for the weekend. The temperatures did drop slightly on Friday, down to just 10 degrees at the cross country. On the nearby mountain at Rosa Khutor, where the temperature had reached 16 degrees on Thursday, it was 14 degrees on Friday. Even that was enough to turn snow to slush.
Organisers brought forward the start time of the morning downhill element of the super-combined. The early start meant that the first skiers had the best conditions but the winner was an outsider who made the most of the difficult conditions in the slalom element later in the day.
Sandro Viletta, a Swiss outsider, finished 14th in the downhill but then swept down an increasingly slushy slalom course in 2 minutes 45.20 seconds to leap into first place. “I like the snow,” he said.
Bode Miller, who won the event in 2010, finished sixth, and was one of several athletes to complain about the soft conditions and the way organisers had responded.
“If they started at 11, everybody has crappy snow more or less,” Miller said. “But it's always in hindsight you can make those calls.”
Games officials have expressed confidence that there is more than enough snow in place and the warm weather should not impact the race timetable at the Sochi Games.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)