Winter Olympics: at risk due to climate change?

More than half of the previous host cities of the Winter Olympics could register temperatures in 2050 too hot to host the games again

Winter Olympics: at risk due to climate change?

Geologists and meteorologists around the world are increasingly worried. 2017 has been the hottest year in history. The biggest threat is that every year, thermometers mark temperatures never seen before. This has been the case for at least the last four years. 

These alarming figures have led researchers at the University of Waterloo (Ontario) in Canada, led by geography professor Daniel Scott, to conclude that, after gathering climate data from all the cities that have hosted the Winter Olympics, 9 of the 19 will be too hot to host the orbital event again. Applying climate change models to predict future winter conditions and using projections in which the planet's greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, they determined that by 2050 the global temperature will increase by four degrees Celsius, leaving dozens of cities with no chance of hosting the Winter Olympics. 

What can be done?

One of the biggest problems for cities would be the lack of snow, even if measures such as artificial snowmaking are taken. To "make" snow, you need to pump water through high-pressure nozzles, waiting for the water to stick to the icy air and freeze almost immediately, turning it into snow. But what if the air isn't cold enough? Or, in this case, what if the air is too hot? 

The shortage of cold air and snow will lead to more extreme measures, such as those taken at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. In 2010, Canada was under one of the hottest winters in its history, so organizers had to install straw bales and coat them with artificial snow to cover slopes that didn't have enough snow to be able to ski smoothly. In the Sochi Olympics, the organization had to store snow for almost two winters, prior to the world event, storing it in dark places and covered with insulation to prevent it from melting.
Despite these efforts, the athletes in both games complained that this poor snow caused unsporting circumstances, as many of them were harmed because conditions were very changeable between the turn of one participant and another, making track performance slower or faster, depending on when they were competing.

Scott believes that, over time, and if climate change continues to play its harmful role, the options for holding the Winter Games will be reduced each time almost to the point that host locations will have to be rotated among a small group of cities.  The mountain ranges near the Alps and the U. S. - Canada border will be the geographic areas that would have the privilege of still hosting the Games, because they would have the climatic conditions (in a sense), as well as the logistics and infrastructure to host an event of such magnitude, so that Argentine and Chilean Patagonia would be ruled out, as well as much of Russia and the Himalayas.


Latin American Post | Juan Felipe Guerrero

Copy edited by Laura Rocha Rueda

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