Heavy fog wreaks havoc at Games, events postponed

Agencies. SEOUL and SOCHI, Russia

Tue, Feb 18, 2014 - Page 20

Thick fog at the Sochi Olympics forced organizers to postpone events yesterday, as Meryl Davis and Charlie White targeted the first-ever ice dance gold for the US.

Warm temperatures at the Games in Russia have failed to stop the action, but thick cloud cover in the mountains at Rosa Khutor meant the men’s biathlon 15km mass start and snowboard cross could not go ahead as planned.

The biathlon event, originally slated for Sunday, has been rescheduled for today, meaning that Norwegian star Ole Einar Bjoerndalen will have to wait longer to make his bid for a record 13th Winter Olympics medal.

The men’s snowboard cross competition has been rescheduled for 10:30am today with a shortened format. Coaches at the Laura biathlon course said the biggest problem was not so much the fog as the poor quality of the snow.

Alpine skiers have expressed doubts over variable conditions, with winter-like snow and ice on top of runs and spring-like softer snow conditions at the bottom.

Yet Austria-born Patrick Riml, the US team’s alpine director, said the weather was “not an excuse for me” and changing conditions were “part of the game.”

Despite the challenges, the International Olympic Committee remained bullish, with spokesman Mark Adams saying: “No event has been canceled so far.”

In indoor events not threatened by the weather, hosts Russia are having a tough time winning on the Olympic ice, while the Netherlands cannot seem to lose.

Russia were forced into a second straight shootout on Sunday and must play an extra game to reach the men’s hockey quarter-finals.

With hockey-crazed Russian crowds packing the arenas, Canada, Sweden, the US and Finland advanced to the hockey quarterfinals. They will be joined by the winners of a four-game qualifying round on Tuesday next week among the eight remaining teams.

Russia lost their chance to skip the qualifying round when they were forced into a shootout by Slovakia, winning 1-0. That allowed Finland to claim the bye on goal-difference, while Canada, Sweden and the US all finished the qualifying round undefeated.

The Dutch speedskaters have fared much better, earning a third sweep of the podium in the women’s 1,500m. Overall, the Dutch have won an astounding 16 speedskating medals in Sochi out of 24 awarded so far, smashing the Olympic record of 13 set by East Germany at the 1988 Calgary Games.

Elsewhere on Day 10 of the Sochi Olympics, Norwegian skier Kjetil Jansrud earned his country’s fourth consecutive Olympic title in men’s super-G, Czech snowboarder Eva Samkova won her country’s first gold medal of the games and Sweden took gold in the men’s 4x10km cross-country relay.

Women’s ice hockey has reached the semi-final stage, with the US playing Sweden and Canada taking on Switzerland.

In other Sochi news, a transgender former member of Italy’s parliament yesterday said she had been detained by Russian police for about three hours for trying to stage a gay rights protest.

Vladimir Luxuria told reporters she was led away by two men in plain clothes on Sunday when she held up a sign saying: “Gay is OK” in Russian at the Olympic Park. She was released in the early hours of yesterday.

Luxuria said she had been protesting a law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin last year banning the spread of “gay propaganda” among minors.

She said she was treated respectfully while in detention, but was told by police that she could not promote pro-gay slogans.

The police declined to comment and the Games organizers said the police had no formal record of her detention.

International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said: “We hope that the Games will not be used as a platform for demonstrations.”