Beijing -- the favourite the host the 2022 Winter Olympics -- has an awkward snow problem

Beijing olympics snowAPA skier passes by snow machines on the slopes of a ski resort where the Nordic skiing, ski jumping, and other outdoor Olympic events are proposed to be held.

Beijing’s 2022 Winter Olympics bid has one glaring problem: there’s no snow.

Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan are the only two cities bidding on the 2022 Olympics after several European cities with democratically elected governments dropped out.

On Monday the IOC released a lengthy evaluation of the two bids. The 137-page report, while complimentary overall, is open about the problems the two potential hosts face.

Beijing, the favourite, plans to divide the Olympics into three clusters — one in the city, one in the mountains of Yanqing (55 miles away), and one in the mountains of Zhangjiakou (100 miles away). The mountain clusters aren’t just relatively far away, they’re also almost complete devoid of natural snow.

The IOC took photos of the Yanqing cluster, the proposed venue for skiing and other mountain sports, and included them in the evaluation. These photos were taken between January 20 and 23, which is two weeks before the Beijing Olympics would take place in 2022. As you can see, snow was minimal.

Here’s the ski slope:

And here’s the whole cluster:

The average snow depth at the Yanqing cluster (above) is only 1.9 inches, and the average snow depth at the Zhangjiakou cluster is 8.3 inches.

In their evaluation, the IOC wrote that the 2022 Olympics would “rely completely on artificial snow.”

This is a problem for two reasons:

1) It’d look bad. The IOC wrote, “Due to the lack of natural snow the ‘look’ of the venue may not be aesthetically pleasing either side of the ski run.”

2) China would likely have to divert water from local reservoirs for snow making, which could affect regional water supply in an area of China that’s “increasingly arid.” In addition, the IOC wrote, “The bid committee provided detailed figures to demonstrate sufficient water for snowmaking from stored run-off and water diverted from existing reservoirs. The Commission considers Beijing 2022 has underestimated the amount of water that would be needed for snowmaking for the Games but believes adequate water for Games needs could be supplied.”

The IOC just held a Winter Olympics in a tropical resort town where temperatures hit 60 degrees during the games. Now, we could be headed for a snow-less Olympics.

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