Summer Temperatures Dampen Sochi’s Winter Olympics

CREDIT: AP/Petr David Josek

Members of Switzerland's women's ice hockey team warm up at Olympic Park ahead of their practice session prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.

On Monday, the temperature in Sochi, Russia reached 61 degrees Fahrenheit — far above average even for the subtropical Black Sea resort town where the games are being held. Ski jumpers stood in puddles, certain training runs were shifted from day to night and the athletes tried to adjust to one element out of their control.

“I’m trying to hide from the sun here because I feel like I’m getting red,” Chemmy Alcott, a British skier, told the AP.

Jean-Philippe le Guellec of Canada was leading the men’s 12.5-kilometer biathalon when the soft snow caused him to crash and break a ski.

“Honestly, I want to punch a wall and hopefully break through it,” he told the AP.

According to the Washington Post, after four days the Sochi Games are on track to be the warmest Winter Olympics in history. Forecasts indicate that highs will continue to reach the low-60s until the weekend, when they will dip back down to average for the area at around 50-degrees.

A study released last month found that by the 2080s, only six of the 19 cities that have hosted the Winter Olympics would be cold enough to do it again if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t significantly curtailed. The study found that Sochi won’t be reliable enough by 2050.

The heat-related problems at Sochi are occurring at winter sporting venues around the world as snow accumulates later in the season and melts earlier.

A 2012 report found that if winter temperatures rise by four to 10 degrees by the end of the century, as many climate models predict, snow depths in the Western U.S. will decline by at least a quarter. In the Sierra Nevadas snowpack would likely decrease between 40 percent and 70 percent by 2050.

“For those whose livelihood depends upon a predictable winter season, such unpredictability and lack of snow can translate into a precipitous fall in revenue, an early economic indicator of what climate change looks like,” the report said.

While this spells trouble for Winter Olympics’ athletes and organizers, in Sochi some of the spectators are enjoying the surprisingly spring-like weather. It might not be until 2016, when Rio de Janeiro hosts the next Summer Games, for heatwaves to truly upset Olympic fans.