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Winter Olympic Games may face threats of climate change

With the Winter Olympics set to be held in Sochi, Russia starting February 7, new reports are questioning whether the games will survive climate change in the future.

A new study conducted by the University of Waterloo says that most of the cities that have already hosted the Winter Olympics may be too warm to host the events again.

According to the study, only six of the previous Winter Olympics host cities will be cold enough to reliably host the games by the end of this century if global warming projections prove to be accurate.

The average February daytime temperature of Winter Games locations has steadily increased — from 0.4°C at the games held in the 1920-50s, to 3.1°C during the 1960-90s, and 7.8°C in the 21st century.

The study finds that internationally renowned Olympic sites like Vancouver, Squaw Valley, USA, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, and Sochi, Russia will no longer have climates suitable to reliably host the Games by the middle of the 21st century. With additional warming projected for later decades of this century, as few as six former host locations would be suitable.

The study also examines how technological advancements and strategies developed over several decades have been used to manage weather risk at the Winter Olympics. Technology like snowmaking, track/jump refrigeration and high-resolution weather forecasting are now critical components of staging a successful Winter Games.

“Despite technological advances, there are limits to what current weather risk management strategies can cope with,” said Dr. Robert Steiger of the Management Center Innsbruck. “By the middle of this century, these limits will be surpassed in some former Winter Olympic host regions.”

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