1980 delivered an extremely dry winter in Lake Placid, NY, host of the XIII Winter Olympics. In the end, the organizers resorted to using artificial snow to supplement Mother Nature's deficit. Fast forward 42 years to the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing and prepare for your mind to be blown.
Beijing rarely goes below zero.
The venues there are relying on 100% artificial snow.
1.2 million cubic tons of it.
That needs 500 million gallons of water.
Natural resources were diverted to supply enough water.
Equipment from Italy was ferried in large ships over two years to create the infrastructure needed to produce the snow.
The creation of the snow where it naturally does not exist is expected to cause erosion and deliver long-term ecological damage.
Oslo, Stockholm, Krakow, and Lviv withdrew their bids for the 2022 games due to public opposition, leaving the competition between Almaty and Beijing. Seriously, that's no competition!
Are winter games in artificial snow sustainable?
Clearly, in China it is. The country can suspend global disbelief, divert natural resources, plant thousands of trees, and promise a carbon-neutral event in the midst of a pandemic. The fact is that the IOC leadership does little to provide oversight or enforce measures for environmental integrity, and so, Beijing being the "cleanest and greenest" Olympics will be debated for the foreseeable future.
To a lay person like me, making artificial snow at this scale is simply not an appropriate use of resources for a planet in peril.
Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo will host the winter games in 2026, seventy years after they last hosted. In the meantime, the temperature in the region has risen by 5.9 degrees.The Council on Foreign Relations projects that by 2080, only 8 of the past 20 cities will have appropriate weather to host the Winter Olympics and by 2085 only 5% of the currently viable cities in the northern hemisphere will be cool enough for the Summer Olympics.
That, my friends, is in the lifetime of our kids and grandkids.
Enjoy Beijing 2022 because one thing is for sure - the nature, frequency, and venues of these massive global events are in for seismic changes in the coming decades.