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Officials: Don't sweat the warm weather

By Steve Almasy, CNN
Warm weather has delayed the Alpine skiing competition.
Warm weather has delayed the Alpine skiing competition.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Weather has been in mid- to upper-40's (7-9 degrees Celsius), delaying some events
  • Officials say courses will be ready, time built into outdoor schedule to allow for delays
  • Ticket-holders cautioned to check Olympics' official Web site for event info
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Vancouver, British Columbia (CNN) -- Some people joke the Winter Olympics should be moved to Washington, D.C. You know, somewhere where there is plenty of snow.

It is unseasonably warm in the Northwest, and several events on the Olympics schedule have already been postponed or canceled. To the west a line of several storms is lining up in the Pacific. Athletes and fans hope they bring snow.

Officials say that no matter what, when it comes down to time for competition, the courses will be ready and talk of the weather is overblown. After all, they prepared for the possibility of poor conditions.

"When we designed the schedule, we put the events that had the greatest degree of weather risk at the beginning," said Vancouver Organizing Committee spokeswoman Renee Smith-Valade. "So you'll see that by postponing these events that we have been asked to so far, that we have room to reschedule them."

She said that for the outdoor events there are two to three extra days built into the schedule in case there are delays.

As there was Saturday when the men's downhill race in Whistler was postponed due to weather and training for the snowboard cross races, to take place just north of Vancouver on Cypress Mountain, was canceled. The downhill was rescheduled for Monday morning.

The weather in Vancouver has been in the mid- to upper-40's (7-9 degrees Celsius) with rain more often that not. The forecast for the coming week calls for highs in Vancouver to reach 50 (10 degrees Celsius) several times. Readings in Whistler are also supposed to be well above freezing, but at least some snow is expected to fall.

Smith-Valade cautioned fans with tickets to check the official Web site of the games (www.vancouver2010.com) before they put on their coats and head out to an outdoor event. She said there would be no refunds for events that were rescheduled because of weather.

Some of the warmth can be attributed to El Niño, a weather pattern characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration .

David Jones, a meteorologist at Environment Canada, told David Epstein of Sports Illustrated that this was more than the effects of El Niño.

"There's something else that we don't completely understand," he told SI.

Read more about the weather issues at SportsIllustrated.com

At Whistler athletes are ready to race, after enduring postponement after postponement.

"We did everything we could. Now we can't do anything, we have to wait," said Gunter Hujara, the men's alpine skiing chief race director of the International Ski Federation.

"We had 200 people on the slope working 24 hours through," he said. "Now we [will] bring them off the courses, wait until snow has fallen, because we have one basic [principle] -- you can push the snow when it is on the ground, and we should not do it before. ... We [must be] patient and we want to do the right thing."