The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are just 365 days away, and as the Russian resort town puts the finishing touches on its $51 billion worth of new arenas and facilities, organizers — and President Vladimir Putin — are ensuring everything is under control. Even the weather.
This time next year, athletes will be depending on some very specific weather conditions to compete — it has to be cold enough and dry enough in this Black Sea city to snow. But the weather this week in Sochi is more Sahara than Siberia: it’s been a balmy 66 degrees. A skiing test event last week was canceled because of “continuous warm and rainy weather conditions.”
But regardless of how next February looks, rest assured: there will be snow. “Snow will be guaranteed in 2014,” Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the local organizing committee, told the Associated Press.
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Naturally, questions emerged as to what it meant to “guarantee” snow. As it turns out, the Russians are working on ways to not only make snow but to keep existing flakes around.
According to a report by Canadian broadcaster CBC, 446 snow guns sit poised around the Sochi slopes to churn out artificial snow whenever the temperature dips below 28°F (-2°C), fed by two massive new water reservoirs. The fake flakes are then spread down over the slopes for storage. During the summer months, Olympics organizers plan to cover all that snow with thermal blankets. They estimate they’ll be able to keep about 70% of the snow from melting through the warm season, and come winter it will be uncovered in time for the Olympics.
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There’s even a Plan C that involves a “special snow producing plant which can produce snow at temperatures up to 15°C [59°F],” Chernyshenko told the CBC.
If Sochi finds itself snowless, or at least unable to keep the existing snow from melting, it would mark the second Winter Games in a row that’s been plagued by warm weather issues. The 2010 games in Vancouver had to truck and fly in snow from a nearby mountain after temperatures became too warm to make snow.
Russians, however, are relying on their own ingenuity to get through next winter with plenty of the white stuff. “We are wizards,” Vyacheslav Soldatenkov, Sochi’s head of snowmaking, reportedly told the CBC. “We make snow.”