Olympics: Alpine skiing men's downhill postponed due to high winds

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 11 (Reuters) - The Olympic men's downhill was postponed because of high winds at the Jeongseon venue on Sunday, leaving organizers wrestling with a scheduling headache from the start of the Alpine skiing program.

Gusting winds of up to 39 knots (72 kilometers per hour) have been forecast for Sunday through until Tuesday, well past the point at which the gondola that moves the skiers to the top of the mountain cannot function.

Chief race director Markus Waldner had flagged the possible postponement as early as Wednesday and contingency plans had been drawn up for an emergency meeting of the race committee to consider.

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Their first preference of moving the race forward to Saturday had been ruled out by the International Olympic Committee.

Weather permitting, Waldner said on Thursday, the race would be run on Monday at noon local time (0300 GMT), between the two runs of the women's giant slalom at the other Alpine venue in Yongpyong.

If organizers are not able to stage the race by the end of Wednesday, the downhill will replace the men's Super G in the schedule with the other speed race moving to Friday, currently a rest day.

Disruption to the Alpine skiing at the Winter Olympics is not unusual and it is a rare Games where some re-jigging of the schedule is not necessary.

That is even more the case on the World Cup circuit and the racers have learned to be phlegmatic about adjustments to the program.

"I'm ready for tomorrow, but I'll be prepared for Monday, for Tuesday, whenever," Swiss Beat Feuz, one of the race favorites, said on Saturday.

"We have to be flexible because no one can control the weather."

Hannes Reichelt will go first when the race does get underway with his fellow Austrian Matthias Mayer, the defending champion, set to go out third.

World champion Feuz will be the seventh skier to go down the course ahead of Aksel Lund Svindal in ninth and the other main Norwegian contender Kjetil Jansrud in 17th. (Additional reporting by Mark Trevalyen; Editing by Ed Osmond/Greg Stutchbury)

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