Fierce wind forces closure of Olympic Park in South Korea

Spectators pass a tent destroyed by fierce winds prior to the women's 1,000 meters speedskating race at the Gangneung Oval at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Volunteer workers at Gangneung Olympic Park shield themselves from blowing dirt and debris from strong winds as they leave the park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. Spectators were advised to either stay inside competition venues or leave the park because of high winds. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
A concession stand worker carries away equipment after strong winds tore apart the food stand at Gangneung Olympic Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. Spectators were advised to either stay inside competition venues or leave the park because of high winds. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
A woman shields her face and a child from gusty winds that whipped through Gangneung Olympic Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. Spectators were advised to either stay inside venues or leave the park because of high winds. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
A volunteer gathers plastic chairs blown over by fierce wind at the Gangneung Media Village in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Empty seats of the Alpensia Biathlon center are pictured as the women's 15km Individual race was canceled due to strong winds at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
A volunteer gathers plastic chairs blown over by fierce wind at the Gangneung Media Village in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
A biathlon athlete takes a photo of the empty venue after a women's 15km individual race was canceled due to strong wind, at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Flag wind speed indicator are waved by a breeze at he shooting range of the Alpensia Biathlon center as the women's 15km Individual race was canceled due to strong winds at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
A spectators wearing the colors of the Dutch Royal House of Orange, holds on to his hat as fierce wind blows outside the Gangneung Oval at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Police officers shield their faces from strong winds as they help clear the park of spectators at Gangneung Olympic Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. Spectators were advised to either stay inside competition venues or leave the park because of high winds. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Empty seats of the Alpensia Biathlon center are pictured as the women's 15km Individual race was canceled due to strong winds at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
A vendor chases down solar film that blew off the top of the Coca-Cola building inside Gangneung Olympic Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. Spectators were advised to either stay inside competition venues or leave the park because of high winds. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
An athlete is reflected on the windows of the Alpensia Biathlon center as the women's 15km Individual race was canceled due to strong winds at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Workers place a sign at the media center venue announcing it's temporary closure due to strong winds at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. Organizers said all activities in the common domain of the Gangneung Olympic Park have been temporarily suspended due to strong winds and to ensure the safety of personnel in the area. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Workers place a sign at the media center venue announcing it's temporary closure due to strong winds at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. Organizers said all activities in the common domain of the Gangneung Olympic Park have been temporarily suspended due to strong winds and to ensure the safety of personnel in the area. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
A volunteer peeks under its hood while walking against gusty winds at the Olympic Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. Gusts forced organizers to shut down the common areas in Olympic Park asking spectators to seek shelter in buildings. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Visitors to Gangneung Olympic Park shield themselves from blowing dirt and debris from strong winds as they leave the park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. Spectators were advised to either stay inside competition venues or leave the park because of high winds. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
People look at a concession stand blown by gusty winds at the Olympic Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. Gusts forced organizers to shut down the common areas in Olympic Park asking spectators to seek shelter in buildings. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Refrigerators are toppled after they were blown over at a concession stand by gusty winds at the Olympic Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. Gusts forced organizers to shut down the common areas in Olympic Park asking spectators to seek shelter in buildings. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
A volunteer chases down solar film backing that blew off the Coca-Cola building inside Gangneung Olympic Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. Spectators were advised to either stay inside competition venues or leave the park because of high winds. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Sharp, gusting wind forced the temporary closure of the Olympic Park in Gangneung on Wednesday, the latest blow from wild weather that has affected the games for several days.

Sustained winds of 23 mph (37 kph) with stronger gusts howled through the Olympic Park near the coast, knocking over tents, signs and even small refrigerators. The conditions have repeatedly forced the postponement of events in the mountains to the west, notably Alpine skiing.

Local officials began evacuating Olympic Park at about 3 p.m., with public address announcements in Korean and English urging spectators to go indoors and eventually a police presence helped clear the area. Many spectators sought shelter in buildings near the Gangneung Hockey Centre. Normal activity resumed several hours later, before speedskating and hockey events were scheduled to being.

Inside the Gangneung Oval, home to long-track speedskating, Dutch oompah band Kleintje Pils had some fun with windy conditions by opening their performance with "Stormy."

There has been much discussion of the cold conditions at these Olympics, but temperatures had moderated on Wednesday — only for the wind to cause more disruptions. Gusts topping 45 mph have forced the postponement of three of four scheduled Alpine ski races, the latest coming Wednesday as the women's slalom was pushed back until Friday. The women's biathlon at Alpensia Biathlon Center was also postponed, until Thursday.

With ski racing, the wind can make it dangerous for athletes already traveling at as much as 75 mph; in technical events, such as the slalom, wind that changes direction can be considered unfair, because some skiers will get a helpful tailwind, while others will be hurt by a headwind.

"All of them are anxious to race, absolutely, but they all want to race in fair conditions. That's the main thing," U.S. women's Alpine coach Paul Kristofic said after the slalom was called off. "To have unstable wind like that for one racer and not for the other, it creates not the best sporting event."

Gusts of more than 15 mph pushed the women's biathlon back because that much wind makes it difficult for competitors to properly handle their rifles.

Indoor sport competitions weren't affected, but conditions surrounding some of the venues were treacherous. Several venue media centers, giant tents anchored with metal beams, were closed temporarily.

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AP Sports Writers Beth Harris and Teresa M. Walker in Gangneung, South Korea, and Howard Fendrich in Pyeongchang, South Korea, contributed.

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More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

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