Thunderstorm plays havoc with Olympic competitions

August 14th, 2008 - 8:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 14 (DPA) A thunderstorm Thursday played havoc with the Olympic competition programme, forcing organisers to move canoeing and kayaking slalom finals to Friday and also affecting other sports like rowing and tennis. Thursday’s whitewater slalom ended after just one race, the first men’s C2 semi-final won by Germans Felix Michel and Sebastian Piersig.

The other semis and the final, as well the semi-finals and final in the women’s K1 event, were moved to Friday.

Rowing was even worse off as the entire semi-final programme was put back one day. However, Friday was always kept as a reserve day with no competition scheduled.

“The rain wasn’t the problem but the thunderstorm forced us to cancel everything for safety reasons,” said Arno Boes, spokesman of the world governing rowing body FISA.

Rowing also encountered problems in 2004 in Athens when high winds forced the programme to be rearranged several times.

Tennis suffered for the second time at the Games as rain did not allow the start of play Thursday, four days after most of Sunday’s programme had to be scrapped due to heavy rain.

Rain is common in August in Beijing and is forecasted again for early next week.

Olympic organisers said earlier this week they wanted to stage the Olympics in September, where according to meteorologists the conditions are far better.

“The best time to open an event like this in Beijing is September. That’s the beginning of autumn, and many people consider that the best season in Beijing. It’s also the time of year when the 1990 Asian Games were held,” said Xie Pu, director of Beijing’s Olympics Meteorological Service Center.

But the IOC objected because it would create problems with the international sports calendar, with an agreement in place since 1988 that Olympics should best start in the last week of July or first week of August.

Other Olympics have taken place later in the year, with Seoul 1988 and Sydney 2000 taking place in the second half of September.

The biggest obstacle is the US Open tennis Grand Slam which is traditionally played in the last week of August and first week of September.

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