A spell of warm weather is disrupting events at theWinter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, presenting a challenge for Olympic organizers with temperatures forecast to rise again this week.
Athletes have voiced concerns that melting and soft snow is hampering their ability to compete.
On Tuesday, a training session for Alpine skiing downhill was canceled to protect the piste, while mild weather conditions meant a slushy track for a Nordic Combined event.
“It’s not even slushy, it’s just mushy,” Bill Demong of the United States told Reuters. He won the gold medal in the Nordic Combined large hill event in 2010.
“There is no structure to the snow at all. It’s very hard to ski on, it’s almost impossible to ski easy,” he added.
Some athletes in the men’s biathlon 12.5-kilometer pursuit Monday fell while skiing on a course softened by warm weather.
At a news conference, the head of the Sochi Olympics, Dmitry Chernyshenko, said there is no need yet to use emergency snow reserves at mountain venues. But he said organizers are ready to do so if necessary.
In Sochi, a Black Sea resort city with a subtropical climate, the average February temperatures are around 10 degrees Celsius. But on Monday, the high was about 16, and after a brief cool down, they could return to the mid-teens on Thursday. The mountain venues, about an hour away, could see daytime temperatures of around 10 degrees towards the end of the week.
This is not the first time Winter Games organizers have had to deal with the impact of mild weather on courses.
At the Vancouver Games four years ago, snow was brought in by helicopter as higher than average temperatures wreaked havoc with the competitions.
“The conditions have changed,” American skier Bode Miller told Reuters. “Now it is a completely different race course. It is going to be tough, because of all the good slalom skiers out there.
“The downhill could have done some real separation if the course remained hard and icy. It could have been a real challenge for the slalom guys. It could have made a pretty big gap on the downhill side,” he noted. “It could have been a great race but now the conditions are much easier and it will be much more difficult to put some time on.”
The unseasonably warm weather in a city with a subtropical climate have put Sochi on track to be the warmest Winter Olympics in history.
(Photo: Sochi 2014 Winter Games via flickr.com)