Without Winter, There Can Be No Winter Games

It has been hard to escape the amount of coverage dedicated in recent weeks to Vancouver’s curious lack of snow. It seems that Vancouver is the first city in history to host the “Spring” Olympics. While Vancouver is known to be among the mildest climates in Canada, the lack of snow on the North Shore Mountains is actually highly unusual. Some media theories have claimed that Vancouver Olympic organizers “duped” the IOC in their bid for the games, deliberately concealing their temperate climate. Although a clever conspiracy makes for good copy, Vancouver is in fact a Winter Olympics “worthy” city, as its reputation as one of the world’s finest ski destinations would attest. Yet having just experienced one of the warmest Januarys on record, Vancouver’s mission to host a “green games” has become synonymous with more than just their sustainability measures, the city is literally green.

Much to the delight of many tourists expecting temperatures in the negative numbers, the warmer weather has wreaked havoc on the games, creating miserable conditions for athletes, numerous delays and headaches for organizers. None have been more critical than the British press, as hosts of the upcoming London Summer Games, they have taken much delight in Vancouver’s peril, calling it just 6 days into competition “the worst Olympic games ever.” Say about it what you will, I don’t think their claim is referring to the technical glitch which failed to raise the Olympic flame; they are referring to the “run of horrible weather.” As I write from snowy Washington, I can’t help but wonder why among all the attention being paid, no one seems to be drawing the obvious correlation between this bizarre weather and climate change.

Citing the juxtaposition between the white streets of the typically snow-less Washington, DC and the barren ski hills of Vancouver, Grist.org calls this trend “global weirding” – less predictable, more extreme and more damaging weather patterns. While cute, I argue that we should call it what it is – global warming. Vancouver’s troubles are part of a broader trend of warmer winters across the Northern Hemisphere. Increased warmth and changing weather patterns have led to glacial retreat and unreliable snowfall across the globe, putting the future of alpine sports in jeopardy. The lack of snow in Vancouver has forced organizers to undermine their larger aim to reduce the 110,000 ton carbon footprint of the games by having to move some 5000 cubic meters of snow from nearby mountains using trucks and helicopters. After all, without winter, there can be no winter games.* As I am about to embark on my trek back to my unseasonably warm hometown, I thought I would give the Vancouver organizers a little head start in the form of 1.5822 tonnes of carbon offsets which cost me $39.56 (Canadian Dollars).

More dispatches from Vancouver to come.

* thank you for the clever title offsetters.ca

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