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False Start


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Salt lake City, Utah Feb 8, 2002 (AP)–Winter weather got the best of the Winter Olympics on Friday.

Ski jump qualifying on the 90-meter hill, the first competition of the Winter Games, was canceled because of high crosswinds and blowing snow at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City. Gusts exceeding 50 mph ripped a door off its hinges at the Park’s day lodge.

Venue general manager Colin Hilton said both the qualifying jumps and final would be held Sunday morning.

Practice for the men’s downhill, the premier event of alpine skiing, was canceled, as was training for women’s downhill and nordic combined. A first practice run of men’s single luge was held, but the second run was canceled.

A snowstorm moved into Utah the morning of the opening ceremony, bringing with it strong winds and making visibility difficult at mountain venues.

“In the nine years I’ve been here, I’ve only seen one other day when the winds were this high,” said competition manager Alan Johnson. “We actually had a few windows today for safe jumping but it wasn’t consistent. You never knew when you’d get a gust.”

Johnson said Sunday’s forecast of sunny skies and calm winds should be ideal for jumping,

Fans trudged back to their cars after learning that there would be no jumping. But organizers said because the event was canceled that fans are entitled to a full refund for their tickets.

“I was really disappointed,” said 17-year-old Marissa Harding, clutching an American flag. “But it’s the right decision. It’s for the jumpers’ safety. You wouldn’t want to see anyone flying through this.”

Before the event was canceled, fans at the base of the ski jump hill waited out the delay by huddling together like penguins in the Antarctic, bracing themselves against wind gusts of 30 mph.

They weren’t allowed to leave the venue for the warmth of their cars for security reasons.

Most didn’t seem to mind. And while keeping an eye on the giant scoreboard for any updates, they were entertained by mascots and jugglers

Stuart Blain of Richmond, Va., and his family spread out a large blanket and settled in while waiting for the competition to begin.

“We got up at 4:15 this morning to get here and we were kind of bummed out when they said it would be delayed,” Blain said as he fed hot soup to his son, Mac. “But when the announcer said that the athletes had trained for years to be here, it really put it in perspective. I think everyone is dealing with this very well.”

The Utah Olympic Park is 28 miles east of downtown Salt Lake City.

At Snowbasin, 33 miles north of Salt Lake City, training for the men’s downhill was canceled because of strong winds that whipped snow across the Grizzly course. The men had a practice run there Thursday, and have another scheduled for Saturday. The race is set for Sunday.

“The front went over about 5:30 and we had gusts near 60 mph up on top of the course,” said Dan Risch, one of the meteorologists at Snowbasin. “Currently we have gusts of 20 to 40 mph, and we expect fairly strong winds throughout the day.”

However, Risch said skies should clear overnight and the weather outlook is promising for the next week. “I think we’re going to luck out,” Risch said.

The women now hope to have their first training run Saturday. Their downhill is set for Monday.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press