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Warm Weather Wrecks Havoc on Olympic Schedule

A snowless and sunny Vancouver skyline.
A snowless and sunny Vancouver skyline.

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David Byrd

The warm weather has played havoc with the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and Whistler, Canada.  Warm temperatures caused by the "El Nino" weather phenomenon have left Vancouver area devoid of snow, and Whistler slushy and sloppy as athletes wait to compete.

The men's downhill ski event - considered the premier Alpine event at any Olympics - had to be postponed for two days because rain soaked the course in Whistler.  Olympic rules require at least one practice run.  And rain on the course made training impossible.  In addition, the women's super-combined event had to be postponed because of the wet conditions.

The Cypress Mountain venue - where freestyle skiing, snowboarding and moguls events are scheduled - had no natural snow.  Canadian organizers are bringing in snow by the truckload to prepare the course for competition.  Off days are built into the Olympic schedule.  But practice on the courses has been impossible because of rain and warm temperatures.

But the warm and wet conditions have not dampened the spirits of Canadian Olympic torch relay runner Gerald Arksey.  Dressed in his white relay uniform and carrying the now extinguished Olympic torch he carried in Squamish, Canada, Arksey says the warm weather is not unusual. "The weather is fairly normal.  You know, it varies year to year.  But it is not unusual to have weather this warm.  I think everybody's going to carry on," he said.

Canadian fan Ken Kresdee is wearing a huge wizard's pointed hat covered with Canadian flags in downtown Vancouver.  He says that temperatures have deviated only a few degrees from what the area has normally. "If you are on the eastern side of this continent, you are used to getting winter weather.  Here, this is pretty much our winter, except that it is probably three or four degrees warmer than normal.  It should be four or five, six degrees Celsius right now.  And we should have more snow.  So the El Nino effect has had an effect," he said.

This is not the first Winter Games to suffer poor conditions.  The 1998 Olympics were hit by rain, fog and snowstorms - even an earthquake - that affected the competition schedule in Nagano.

Despite El Nino, fans like Kresdee and Arksey say Canadian spirits are high.  And both men predicted that Vancouver will host a successful Winter Games.  

But the weather might not cooperate.  Forecasters are calling for the warm temperatures to continue with downtown readings expected at about 10 degrees for the next several days.  In Whistler, the forecast calls for temperatures between four and eight degrees, with only a few snow showers for the next 10 days.

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