News / Science & Technology

    Climate Change Threatens Winter Olympics

    The Caucasus Mountains, site of several 2014 Winter Olympic events, rise in the background as a palm tree stands in the Coastal Cluster's Olympic Park in Sochi, Russia, Jan. 30, 2014.
    The Caucasus Mountains, site of several 2014 Winter Olympic events, rise in the background as a palm tree stands in the Coastal Cluster's Olympic Park in Sochi, Russia, Jan. 30, 2014.
    Rosanne Skirble
    As world athletes head to Sochi, Russia, for the 22nd Olympic Winter Games, their success may depend a lot on the weather. Nine of the 15 sports take place outdoors and require snow or ice.  There is already concern over forecasts that the weather leading up the Games is expected to turn milder, which could lead to deteriorating conditions on the slopes.

    Climate Change Threatens Winter Olympics
    Climate Change Threatens Winter Olympicsi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    According to a new study, climate change will become more of a problem in the future, given the steady rise in global temperatures
     
    Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada and Management Center Innsbruck in Austria analyzed weather conditions for all 19 cities that have hosted the Winter Olympics since the Games began in 1924. 

    Lead author and climate expert Daniel Scott from the University of Waterloo says historic records and climate predictions indicate that by mid-century, only 10 of those cities could host the Games. 

    “By the end of the century, that number dropped to as low as six under the warmest scenario,” he said. 

    Fewer cities cold enough to host Games

    The Winter Games require weather cold enough to make snow and sustain a snowpack. Beginning in the 1980s, host cities began taking measures to ensure that. They made artificial snow and built refrigerated tracks for luge and bobsled. High resolution weather forecasts also helped in day-to-day operations.

    But the planet has been warming since the 1950s, as more carbon emissions from cars, power plants and buildings spew into the atmosphere.  Vancouver was hit by a warm front a week before the 2010 Olympics, too warm to make snow. 

    “They had to bring in the straw bales," Scott said. "They put what limited snow they could over top of those. And that was just sufficient to do some of the moguls and some of the other types of events that were scheduled there.”

    Some question whether Sochi, a seaside town, will fare any better. It is the warmest city ever to host the Winter Olympics, with an average temperature of 10 degrees Celsius. Outdoor events are scheduled many kilometers away.  

    Report recommends IOC look at alternatives

    Scott says the report recommends that the International Olympic Committee consider new venues like northern China, which has the elevation for downhill ski events, and new partnerships. 

    “Maybe Seattle and Salt Lake City could make a rebid," he suggested, "where you have a main Olympic venue, a bigger city that can accommodate the size that the Olympics has grown to, but there will be a secondary location with a smaller part of the Games that has all the skiing events, and it is located in a much more climate reliable location.”  

    Scott says while the report highlights the challenges that lie ahead for Olympic athletes, it also underscores the decline in areas suitable for any winter sports enthusiast in a warmer world, unless dramatic steps are taken to reduce climate changing emissions.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.