ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) – Sweden’s cross-country ski team said on Sunday they will ask the International Ski Federation (FIS) to start races earlier in the day at the Beijing Olympics to protect athletes from the freezing temperatures.
The National Cross-Country Centre in the mountains of Zhangjiakou, some 200 km north-west of Beijing, has seen temperatures lower than the FIS competition limit of -20 degrees Celsius (-4°F) in the run-up to the Games, with brisk winds adding an even greater chill factor.
“We have the cold limits we have, there is not much to say about that. I do not know if they also measure the wind effect,” Swedish team boss Anders Bystroem told reporters.
“If FIS says it’s -17 degrees and it’s windy, and it’s -35 degrees with the wind chill, what do you do then?”
The Swede said the freezing temperatures and holding races in the late afternoon and early evening for European TV audiences were detrimental to the performance of the athletes.
He said he wanted Tuesday’s women’s sprint race moved to earlier in the day.
“Yesterday the competition (women’s skiathlon) started at 4 p.m. and Frida Karlsson was completely destroyed by the cold. It’s not good that the sprint starts even later,” Bystroem said.
“We have talked in the team about making a request (to race earlier) during the day if it’s possible, at the same time I don’t think it will be possible to change the time because of the Olympic schedule.”
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Peter Rutherford)