The podium in the mountains: snow, fog, rain; dazzling men’s hockey tourney to open on Day 5

By Jaime Aron, AP
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

More Olympic weather woes; hockey, curling start

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The big news from the Vancouver Olympics on Tuesday was what wasn’t happening.

Heavy snow on Blackcomb Mountain postponed the men’s super-combined race and called off women’s downhill training. Fog and rain over on Cypress Mountain delayed the women’s snowboardcross event and shortened training for men’s and women’s halfpipe, but they got things going in the afternoon despite limited visibility.

In downtown Vancouver, skies were gray but temperatures were closing in on a balmy 50 degrees. Nonetheless, most Canadians in the city wanted to be indoors next to large sheets of ice, as in the start of the men’s hockey tournament and the curling competition.

The United States and Switzerland were meeting in the first hockey game, with Sidney Crosby and Canada taking over next to face Norway. Over at the curling venue, 11 matches were scheduled, two featuring the U.S. men and another with the women. The men lost their opener to Germany 7-5.

The women’s hockey tournament was to continue with the Americans facing the Russians.

With the men’s Alpine race scrapped, that left five medals to be decided Tuesday. Germany won the first, in women’s biathlon, to move up to six medals, second only to the eight won by Americans. Switzerland has the most golds with three; Americans have won two.

The almost daily weather problems and a spurt of technical glitches have made for headache after headache for Vancouver Olympics organizers. They appear ready to undo one of their own making — the big chain-link fence keeping fans far from the outdoor cauldron. Details will be released Wednesday.

“Perhaps we did underestimate the degree to which people would want to get close to it,” VANOC spokeswoman Renee Smith-Valade said.


Lindsey Jacobellis has waited four years for the chance to make up for her gaffe near the finish line in Turin. After a few extra hours of waiting, she made it through her qualifying run just fine.

The SBX finals are set for the afternoon.

Alpine delays

Lindsey Vonn was as happy to see the snowstorm as any kid who gets a snow day home from school. No time on the slopes means more time to rest her bruised shin, which she especially needs after a bumpy training run Monday.

The women’s event remains scheduled for Wednesday, so all she missed was more training, which she also could’ve skipped. But the wipeout means her foes can’t gain an advantage by getting more familiar with the course.

The men’s super-combined has been rescheduled for Sunday. The men’s giant slalom was supposed to be Sunday has been shifted to next Tuesday, Feb. 23.

Dry weather is forecast for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Of the four Alpine races scheduled so far, only the men’s downhill has been held.

“The situation is challenging,” race director Guenter Hujara said. “But we are quite optimistic. We still have quite a few days in reserve. We will use them if necessary.”


U.S. men curlers better start sweeping faster. Or slower. They need to do something different to turn around the missed scoring chances that cost them against a strong German squad.

“It’s one of those weird deals where you’re very close,” U.S. skip John Shuster said.

The Americans, ranked fourth in the world, get another chance Tuesday night against Norway.

The women were playing Japan in the afternoon.

Men’s hockey

Norway will be without its only NHL player for its Olympic opener Tuesday against Canada.

Defenseman Ole Kristian Tollefsen, who was recently traded from Philadelphia to Detroit, was delayed by a family illness and was arriving in Vancouver too late to make the game. He’s expected to play Thursday, when Norway plays the United States.


The first multi-medalists at the Vancouver Olympics are biathletes Magdalena Neuner of Germany and Anastazia Kuzmina of Slovakia.

Neuner won the women’s 10-kilometer pursuit, giving her a gold to go with her silver in the 7.5-kilometer sprint. Kuzmina got silver, to go with her gold from the previous event.

Sara Studebaker was the top American, finishing 46th.

Venue wipeout

Another 20,000 folks planning to watch events on Cypress Mountain are out of luck.

Wet, warm weather has wiped out the general-admission, standing room area for watching snowboarding halfpipe, ski cross and snowboard parallel giant slalom. The tickets, which cost $48 to $62, are being refunded, along with the 8,000 tickets already refunded for watching snowboardcross from the same spot.

All told, the 28,000 tickets to be refunded will cost organizers around $1.44 million, which is a negligible portion of their $249 million ticketing revenue.

“The snow is washed way to the point where people can punch through and potentially step in a place where there’s two big straw bales,” said Caley Denton, vice president of ticketing and consumer marketing for VANOC. “We’ve had people going down to their knees.”

TV ratings

The Winter Olympics are a big hit for NBC, drawing 16 percent more viewers through the first three nights than the 2006 Turin Games.

“We are really thrilled by the performance of the Olympics,” said Alan Wurtzel, NBC Universal’s top research executive.

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