Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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Glitches plague Vancouver Games

VANCOUVER — From fire to ice, nothing seems to be going right at the Olympics.

The torch malfunctioned. Warm weather turned the slopes and the event schedule to slop. A Zamboni had to ride to the rescue from Calgary after a meltdown at the speedskating rink.

By today, the Glitch Games were in full swing: 20,000 standing-room tickets for the snowboarding venue were voided because fans had fallen between the bales of hay under the melting layers of trucked-in snow.

Want to take a picture of the Olympic cauldron? Make sure that camera is pressed up against the chain-link fence — provided there's room to squeeze in and a Vancouver 2010 banner isn't in the way.

Organizers expect to unveil a plan today to address the rising public outcry and bring people closer to the flame, the most distinguished and enduring symbol of any Olympics.

“Perhaps,” conceded Renee Smith-Valade, a spokeswoman for the organizing committee, “we did underestimate the degree to which people would want to get close to it.”

Perhaps. At a press conference, a Canadian TV reporter asked organizers why the flame was hidden behind “a ratty-looking prison-camp fence.” And the Globe and Mail newspaper chose to allude to another Olympic city — Berlin.

Addressing the head of the Vancouver Games, the paper cried: “Mr. Furlong, tear down this fence!”

Of course, no scheduling or logistics issue — or sporting event, for that matter — seems significant in light of the death of a Georgian luger on the first day of the Olympics.

And, to be fair, there have been bright spots. Moguls skier Alexandre Bilodeau gave Canada its first gold medal in three home Olympics. NHL superstar Sidney Crosby has the Canadian men's hockey team looking for gold. NBC ratings have been strong.

But aside from that, it's been one problem after another for a games governed not so much by the Olympic creed as by Murphy's Law. Shades of Atlanta.

The canceled tickets at Cypress Mountain — 28,000 in all — mean about $1.5 million in lost revenue for the games, and disappointment for people who spent $50 to $65 to see events like the halfpipe and snowboardcross.

They'll get refunds, although anyone who bought secondhand may be out of luck. Fans whose tickets were still good, and who went up the mountain yesterday to see events, were treated to blinding snow.

The events schedule, meanwhile, looks like it's been run over by a bobsled.

Yesterday alone, the men's super-combined, up in the mountains at Whistler, was postponed because of an overnight snowstorm. The snowboardcross finals were rescheduled. Women's downhill training was canceled.

This after downhill training was postponed repeatedly earlier in the Olympics because of wet weather that messed with the snow. It's been so mild that locals have jokingly called it the Vancouver Summer Olympics.

“It's getting ridiculous, for sure, how much changing of the schedule and shuffling around has been happening,” said Thomas Vonn, husband and coach of Lindsey Vonn, a multimedal favorite.

Then again, each day of canceled training gives Vonn's badly bruised right shin more time to heal. For everyone else, the delays are a mounting annoyance.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 the worst, this is a 10. That's for sure,” said Patrick Riml, head coach of Canada's women's Alpine team.

Indoors, there are the ice escapades. At the Richmond Oval, the speedskating venue, the resurfacing machine went on the blink Monday.

Instead of a track as smooth as glass, it left piles of slush and pools of water.

So the Olympics, which has a sponsorship deal with Olympia ice resurfacers, had to call in a different brand for replacement — a Zamboni, from a whole province over in Calgary.

Vancouver organizers say they're responding as best they can to problems mostly out of their control.

“It's a little like losing your luggage,” Smith-Valade said at a press conference where she was bombarded by questions about all that's gone wrong. “It's not whether the luggage gets lost — it's how you deal with it.”

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