Mysterious green Olympic rings atop the Olympic alpine course.

With one month to go before the 2010 Olympics, organizers are matching wits with Mother Nature to save every flake of white gold on them ther hills.

For once, I agree with Vanoc. These might be the “greenest games ever” now that the grass is starting to poke through the melting snow. The green trees will match the mysterious green Olympic rings that were recently erected on the Dave Murray Downhill course in Whistler.

The arrival of El Nino on B.C’s West Coast has forced organizers to close Cypress Mountain, the venue for Olympic snowboarding and freestyle events. Mount Seymour was also closed to the public, while Grouse Mountain remains on standby. As the Games draw near, VANOC may need to further restrict use or close competition venues to the public to protect and preserve the competition and training sites.

Temperatures in Vancouver reached 12°C and 5°C in Whistler with torrential downpours. Despite the Olympic alpine venues recording their snowiest month ever in November 2009 with 560 centimetres of snow, it’s melting quickly.

According to a recent VANOC press release, “Intensive operations to prepare the four outdoor competition venues for all weather scenarios – including the current spell of unseasonably warm and wet weather in Vancouver – are well underway to ensure the optimum fields of play for the world’s best winter athletes.”

Despite VANOC’s state-of-the-art snowmaking equipment and fleet of snow grooming machines, even the best weather tracking technology or European ice meisters can’t stop the snow from melting.

Olympic organizers have not disclosed their contingency plans for a “no snow” scenario, but perhaps VANOC will relocate the Olympic snowboarding and freestyle to Whistler?

Although this is a viable option, the Sea to Sky Highway will already be stretched to its limits with the hundreds of buses carrying spectators and volunteers, and limos transporting Internationally Protected Persons to the nordic and alpine events. One can only imagine the logistical nightmare of adding the thousands of spectators from Cypress Mountain.

Two summers ago, it took drivers eight hours to drive from Vancouver to Pemberton to attend the Pemberton Music Festival, an event that was significantly smaller than the Winter Olympics.  Over 55,000 visitors are expected to visit Whistler each day during the games. One major accident is enough to shut down the highway for hours, despite VANOC’s goal to clear accidents in under 20 minutes during the Olympics.

Perhaps this is Mother Nature’s way of delivering karmic justice for VANOC’s unsustainable environmental practices? Just look at the 4,600 GMC gas-guzzling SUVs and pick-up trucks driving around Whistler and Vancouver, each with a single occupant.

If this rain continues, it looks like VANOC won’t be needing the expensive yellow snowmelt machines sitting idly atop the alpine venues and Whistler’s Medals Plaza.


Pina Belperio

Welcome to Word of the Rings, a new blog that aims to serve as a one-stop examination at what’s happening behind the scenes in the lead up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler. Pina...