Sochi, Russia • The Winter Olympics is approaching a snow problem. No problem, say the Games organizers.
Except it is a problem. The Games are not yet melting. I can confidently report that. But they are getting pretty mushy.
Not the entire Games, of course. Some of the snow at some of the venues is acceptable. Some of it is even sort of good. And it’s no issue at the indoor venues, of course. But back when Sochi was awarded the 2010 Winter Games, everyone knew that other than security people, the most nervous folks would be thermometer watchers. The forecast was accurate.
The Sochi area, located on the Black Sea, has a sub-tropical climate. Palm trees line the streets. At the main Olympic Park where the indoor venues are built, temperatures have hovered mostly in the 50’s. The high was 61 on Monday. Thirty miles away at mountain venues, the temps have been a little colder, in the 40′s. But still above freezing.
Tuesday, organizers altered the halfpipe competition schedule, moving a session from 2:30 p.m. until after dark. That way, the snow/ice would have an easier time staying frozen in the semicircular bowl where snowboarders gather momentum to perform their tricks above the halfpipe rim.Chemicals were also mixed with the snow/ice to make it coagulate faster.
Before those decisions were made, reviews of the halfpipe venue were definitely not good. Danny Davis, an American boarder, called the conditions "garbage" after a Monday training session. His teammate, Hannah Teeter, said: "It’s dangerous because it’s crappy." The red-haired eminence of American snowboarding, Shaun White, observed: "The flat bottom is just sand and mush."
Sand and mush? What sand and mush? That was pretty much the attitude of Sochi and Games officials when they were asked about the situation on Tuesday morning.
One of my favorite things at any Olympics is to attend press conferences where the big honchos try to deny things we can see with our own eyes. That happened again Tuesday morning when Mark Adams, spokesman for the International Olympic Committee, was asked about the halfpipe issues.
"It is freezing overnight," Adams said. "It is a little warm and that is causing one or two problems . . . There is always a problem when it is a little bit warmer. There is no problem at all with the halfpipe itself, it is just that these are dynamic living fields of play."
What a wonderful phrase. I believe it was the same terminology that was used in Seattle when there was civil disturbance after the Super Bowl: Hey, it was just a dynamic living field of play.
But the eloquent Adams was not finished.
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