Vancouver’s last Olympics?

Richard Brenne has written an interesting post on why climate change means 2010 was probably Vancouver’s last opportunity to host the winter Olympics:

Global warming is the reason Vancouver will never host another Winter Olympics. They barely dodged (biathlon) bullets at dozens of events, and the Olympic Committee would rather use Donald Trump’s hair as the Olympic flame than go through this again. Climate change is all about likelihoods of things like the record warmth Vancouver has had increasing, and the Olympic Committee rolled Jim Hansen’s dice and came up snake eyes.

He goes on to describe the extreme efforts taken to improve snow conditions, as well as the unusual circumstances in which events were conducted: from snowboard events on slushy runs to Nordic skiers racing in unprecedented temperatures.

The whole thing is worth reading.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

11 thoughts on “Vancouver’s last Olympics?”

  1. The bits of that post on energy-constrained future Olympics are also interesting. If the peak oil people are right, it may well be that the recent Beijing Olympics will prove the most extravagant ones ever.

  2. I think the solution is to have people compete virtually. Everybody wins: athletes get to compete; sports/nationalism fans get their Olympics; cities don’t have to invest in new infrastructure and lose money; and of course, there’s no traveling involved.

  3. Or they could give the Olympics a permanent home, perhaps in Switzerland.

    I have seen a few editorials and op-eds making that suggestion recently.

    It would save a lot on the construction of facilities, and a location can be chosen where the climate will support winter games for a few decades, at least. Admittedly, it would be a lot less exciting than the current rotating approach.

  4. Give the Olympics a Home

    Published: February 28, 2010

    THE Winter Olympics are over, and while the Vancouver Games had moments of glory, I couldn’t help but conclude — as the snow refused to fall on the gleaming new walkways of the Olympic Village — that rotating Olympic sites does more harm than good. The tradition ought to be replaced by the creation of a permanent site for both the Summer and Winter Games.

    The father of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, thought that rotating Olympic sites would promote peace and understanding and open portals into exciting foreign cultures. But the idea of those portals seems quaint in the Internet age. At the same time, the financial problems plaguing the Games — corruption, recurring cost overruns, decaying former venues and excessively costly bid campaigns — have tarnished the luster of hosting the Olympics. Nonetheless, like lemmings, cities queue up to compete to lose money, only to regret it later.

    The poster child of financial calamity remains the 1976 Montreal Olympics, where costs exceeded estimates by some 400 percent, nearly bankrupted the city and took 30 years to pay off. The $14.4 billion cost of the 2004 Athens Games likely contributed to Greece’s financial problems today. And of course there were the extravagant 2008 Beijing Games, with a reported price tag of $40 billion or more. A lack of transparency obscures the full cost of China’s outlays, but already many Olympic structures have been shuttered. And the 2012 London Olympics are already over budget, while plans for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia call for building most venues from scratch.

    Few Olympic cities have fared better. The Olympic committee in Sydney reported that the 2000 Games, widely considered a success, had broken even, but the Australian state auditor estimated a long-term cost of over $2 billion. The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics made a profit — but only because organizers relied on existing arenas and volunteer labor.

  5. In crude financial terms, hosting is a disaster: the 2004 games in Athens cost the Greek government about $16 billion (about 5% of the government’s total debt) and the swimming complex remains unused. Mr Goldblatt reckons that, of the 17 Olympic tournaments held between the second world war and 2012, only the one in Los Angeles, in 1984, actually made a profit. Moreover, the idea that the games makes a host nation more athletic has no foundation. In Britain, fewer people do sport now than did before the Olympics in 2012. Little wonder, then, that a “Nolympics” movement has built up, made of protesters against hosting the games.

  6. Daniel Scott of the University of Waterloo, Robert Steiger of the University of Innsbruck, and others, have looked at this future warming in the context of the cities chosen to host the Winter Olympics, from Chamonix in 1924 to Pyeongchang in South Korea next month and Beijing in 2022. Even if emissions are cut to meet the target of the Paris climate agreement of 2015, only 13 of the 21 look certain to be cold enough to host snow-sports in the 2050s. With high emissions, the number would drop to just eight in the 2080s. The sight of helicopters rushing snow to Olympic sites in Vancouver in 2010 may be a harbinger of the future.

  7. With each year that passes, winter gets a little more conditional. As of January 1, British Columbia, which holds some of the most famous alpine playgrounds in the world, had only 40 percent as much snow as usual—the result of our unusually warm, dry autumn—and several specific regions in the province had their lowest ever snowpack levels. On the world-renowned peaks of Whistler Blackcomb, where fewer than half the runs were open at the end of December, disappointed skiers posted TikToks of slushy runs that fizzled into muddy plateaus. Across BC, December temperatures were breaking records as well. Speaking to The Narwhal, climate scientist John Pomeroy described the winter as “the desiccation of western Canada” and pointed to the province’s melting glaciers, which are expected to disappear entirely by the end of this century. Across Canada, snow cover has shrunk by 5 to 10 percent each decade since 1981. On West Vancouver’s Cypress Mountain, where I learned to snowboard twenty years ago, the average winter temperature has increased by 1.5 degrees since 1901, and annual snowfall has decreased by almost a third.

    As winter becomes endangered, skiing seems like an endangered pastime, one with an increasingly high environmental cost. To compensate for the lack of snow, many ski resorts now rely on snow-making machines, which consume a tremendous amount of power and water. On average, Canadian resorts produce over 42 million cubic metres of snow, enough to fill 7,500 Goodyear blimps, and emit 130,095 tons of C02 in the process, the equivalent of adding more than 28,000 cars to the roads each year. Researchers from Canadian, European, and Australian universities expect that by 2050, climate change will increase the national demand for artificial snow by up to 97 percent—a country of Potemkin ski slopes concealing the grim reality of our disappearing winter.

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