Is There a Future for the Winter Olympics?

In 2022, cold but dry conditions resulted in Beijing becoming the first Winter Olympics host city to rely entirely on artificial snow for all of its outdoor events. That could one day be the norm for winter sporting competitions.

If climate change continues, only four previous Winter Olympics host cities will have reliably good snow by mid century.
If climate change continues, only four previous Winter Olympics host cities will have reliably good snow by mid century.

A study by the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, determined that most of the 21 cities that have hosted the Winter Games will be hard-pressed to keep snow on the ground if greenhouse emissions and climate change continue at their current rates. The temperature in previous host cities has increased by an average of 4.8 degrees F (2.7 °C) since 1950 – although Beijing's has risen by a whopping 8.9 °F (4.9 °C).

According to Professor Daniel Scott, one of the study's authors, snow is already hard to come by, yet things could be much worse by 2050 and truly bad by 2080. "Under a high-emission scenario, if we continue down the path we are on now, we are left with about four climate-reliable locations mid-century, and we're down to one in the late century," Scott said. Without a decrease in global emissions, by 2080, Sapporo, Japan, is projected to be the only previous host city with reliably good February snow conditions.

Cool Winter Olympics facts:

  • For the 1964 Games, the Austrian military came to the rescue by dumping 50,000 cubic yards (38,228 cubic meters) of snow on sites at the host city, Innsbruck.

  • The United States is the only nation to have won at least one gold medal at every Winter Olympics.

  • In 1988, the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, were delayed because the city experienced too much snow.

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    • If climate change continues, only four previous Winter Olympics host cities will have reliably good snow by mid century.
      By: Ross Dunn
      If climate change continues, only four previous Winter Olympics host cities will have reliably good snow by mid century.