There will be enough snow. That’s the message organizers of the Sochi Olympic Winter Games are broadcasting to skeptical spectators and anxious athletes alike.
Last February, two test events had to be canceled in the mountains near Sochi because there simply wasn’t enough white powder on the Russian slopes.
And at the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010, vast quantities of snow had to be airlifted in at the last minute to cover the scantly dusted ski courses.
Sochi is a subtropical beach resort along the shores of the Black Sea. Indoor events at the games, which run from February 7-23, will be held in the city of Sochi itself, while outdoor sports that require a winter wonderland, will be held in the mountains, a half-hour train ride to the east.
The upcoming winter games are Russian President’s Vladimir Putin’s pet project — with the location allegedly selected because it is one of his favorite resort spots. Current predictions estimate that the games will be the most expensive ever, with a whopping price tag of $50 billion.
For the games to be successful, though, there must be snow. And in case the weather isn’t persuaded by the prayers of the Shamans recently recruited by the Russian government, they also have Mikko Martikainen, founder, owner, operator and sole employee of the one-man Finnish company, Snow Secure Ltd.
Martikainen is guaranteeing snow. He has some 500,000 cubic meters of snow from last season stashed away in the Caucasus Mountains under insulating blankets and 500 snow guns at the ready to fill in any bare spots on the slopes. There will also be three special snow machines at the ready that are able to produce snow in temperatures as high as 59 degrees Fahrenheit.
Roman Vilfand, director of the Russian Meteorological Office, boldly predicted last Friday that organizers won’t even need the artificial snow because he believes that the current snow cover in the mountains above Sochi, which is nearly 20 inches, will endure whatever the weather brings over the next few weeks.
That confidence seems unshaken by the fact that Siberia, notoriously one of the coldest and snowiest places in Russia, and indeed anywhere in the world, is experiencing a freakishly warm winter. The Siberian Times recently ran a series of photos documenting the strange thaw, which show grass instead of snow in city parks and ducks splashing in still unfrozen waterways. Locals are saying that these scenes in December are “unprecedented in living memory.”
In Krasnoyarsk, one of the cities photographed, December temperatures have been known to plummet as low as minus 52 degrees Fahrenheit. The daily mean this time of year is 8 degrees Fahrenheit, with no shortage of snow. Rivers which are usually so frozen they are used as winter highways, have only scattered chunks of ice bobbing around.
“I’m reading a book to my children and I hear the tapping of the rain in my ear. Rain? Rain??? Rain in the middle of December? In Siberia?” a woman from Krasnoyarsk told the Siberian Times.