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Artificial Snow Transforms the Winter Olympics

For the first time a Winter Olympics venue uses only artificial snow

For the first time a Winter Olympics venue uses only artificial snow

Man skiing on snow-covered terrain

Photo: Unsplash

LatinAmerican Post | Luis Angel Hernández Liborio

If The Tokyo 2021 games were criticized for sanitary measures, the budget and the possibility of cancellation, the Beijing 2022 games exceed them. From calls for a diplomatic boycott, to the total use of artificial snow, they have grabbed the spotlight at the start of some winter games that look rather gray due to the landscapes devoid of snow.

Beijing 2022, a Chinese dream

The Chinese capital hosted the Summer Olympic Games in 2008, the Asians showed the world their economic power, infrastructure and technology, as well as their sports capacity, achieving victory in the medal ranking. In short, their first Olympic Games as host were a success for them. Fourteen years later the games returned to Beijing but in its winter mode, with which the city became the first in history to host the two most important Olympic events, that is, the summer and winter ones.

With the weight of China in the world and the withdrawal of the Oslo bid, Beijing won the 2022 games, easily beating Alma Ata, Kazakhstan, the third candidate that does have snow. In any case, neither the Chinese nor the Kazakh bid had a good reputation in terms of human rights and spending, but they did have suspicions of corruption. The world trend is to avoid the expense of events of this magnitude, which is why Oslo withdrew from the competition and because of the absurd luxury requirements for IOC members.

For China, the biggest problem has come with the total use of artificial snow for the current 2022 games. Its use is not rare or infrequent in the Winter Olympics, but this time it is totally dependent on this type of "help". Why organize winter games if you don't have snow? That is the whim of the Chinese government, something that does not go unnoticed in the world if the impact of climate change is also considered, which makes it increasingly difficult to hold the winter games.

Is artificial snow the future of winter games?

Due to climate change, snow is a current concern for any Olympic venue, not just China. The trend in winter games is to increase the percentages of artificial snow used. In 2022, Beijing uses 100%, but the previous games, held in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018, were not far from it with between 90% and 98%, according to data from the National Public Radio (NPR). from the United States.

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So you don't have to wonder if artificial snow is the future of the games because it is the present. Beijing promised a "sustainable and ecological" games, but it remains to be seen if the transport of water to the Olympic venues is. In addition to its impact in the future, China ensures that the water will return to nature once the competition is over and that it will not have a major impact on the environment. According to information from Deutsche Welle, 49 million gallons of water (186 million liters) are expected to be used to hold the event, calling into question China's promise of planet-friendly games in a city with water problems. This without also counting the economic and energy cost.

Does artificial snow affect athletes and competition?

As mentioned, artificial snow is not something new in winter games, there are even sports that do not depend on ice or natural snow, since they are performed indoors on stages and circuits created for this purpose. Examples of this are bobsleigh, one of the most colorful bobsled sports in the Winter Olympics, as well as curling, hockey and skating. On the contrary, other sports depend entirely on the ambient snow such as snowboarding, skiing and the Nordic combined.

The concern of the athletes and critics of the artificial snow is given in two aspects: the safety of the athletes and the affectation to the competition. Safety is the most relevant aspect because, although the snow has the ideal size, it depends on the environmental conditions to keep it in the right shape, early thawing could put the athletes at risk. British skier Laura Donaldson assured that the snow from the machines hardens in a dangerous way for skiers, according to CNN.

In the sports aspect, the French skier Clement Parisse assured that it represents a challenge because it becomes slippery, which would somehow affect the athletes' strategy by adding an extra problem. Thus, the future of winter sports and games is in danger due to climate change, artificial snow is an alternative that seems consolidated, will we be able to see a Winter Olympics in Dubai or Saudi Arabia in a few years?