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Heavy winds create havoc at Winter Olympics

Dan Wetzel
Columnist

GANGNEUNG, South Korea – Dangerously high winds slammed the Winter Olympics on Wednesday, postponing events, closing the Olympic Park to spectators and causing at least one injury outside Gangneung Ice Arena.

A woman was said to have been knocked over as she tried to get into the building that houses figure skating and short-track speed skating. She was placed in a neck brace and transported away via ambulance. Police on the scene declined comment to Yahoo Sports.

Forecasts called for gusts up to 45 miles per hour. Much of the construction in and around the venues are temporary tents. The tents house security areas, restaurants, shops, worker dining, media work rooms and TV broadcast compounds. The local organizing committee ordered all of them evacuated in a series of emergency alerts across the late afternoon.

Numerous tents were toppled, security areas were taken down for fear of being damaged and clouds of sand were swept up causing workers and fans to scatter.

“Due to high winds in the Gangneung area, all activities in the common domain of the Gangneung Olympic Park have been temporarily suspended to ensure the safety of all personnel,” the PyeongChang organizing committees said in a statement. “Spectators are being encouraged to stay indoors and general admission to the park has been suspended for the remainder of the day.

“Venue Media Centers that are in temporary structures are also closed until the high winds subside, with media continuing to work from the press tribune areas. Precautionary measures are being taken as safety remains a paramount priority for PyeongChang 2018.”

Workers attend to a woman who was injured from the heavy winds sweeping through the Winter Olympics. (Dan Wetzel)

Up in the mountains, west of here, women’s slalom was postponed until Friday, again delaying the debut here of U.S. Skiing sensation Mikaela Shiffrin. Men’s ski jump also saw delays. Earlier in the week winds postponed other alpine skiing events, and women’s snowboarders complained after their slopestyle competition continued in spite of the conditions, leading to 41 crashes in 50 runs.

The winds were most dangerous Wednesday in the coastal area, which is home to all skating events and curling. Five venues, which include Olympic Stadium feed out into a giant common area where fans can hit stores, get concessions and visit. It’s normally one of the busiest and most festive places during the Games.

On Wednesday, though, it was deserted as temporary heaters were toppled, tenting blew through the park and those who didn’t flee to the safety of buses huddled inside the venues, even if no events were going on.

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