Organizers desperate for climate change

08:33, February 08, 2010      

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Winter Olympics chiefs will not sanction a desperate last-minute venue switch despite unseasonably warm temperatures continuing to curse Cypress Mountain, the host of the freestyle events at the Games which begin on Friday.

The host city enjoyed highs of 11 degrees again on Saturday while meteorological officials said that the warm weather, which has led to 300 dumper trucks and even helicopters being used to transport snow from higher elevations, will continue right up to the opening ceremony on Feb 12.

The imported snow has been piled high on wood and hay which have been laid to form the bumps which test the freestyle skiiers at Cypress Mountain.

"We are not relocating any events," said Tim Gayda, the vice-president of organizing committee VANOC, responding to the problems caused by the warmest January on record, a legacy of El Nino, a periodic warming feature over the Pacific Ocean

"We had a bunch of contingency plans about too much snow or too little snow and we are largely knee-deep in the contingency plan for the too-little snow.

"But the events will take place at Cypress Mountain - 100 percent."

Despite the organizers' optimism, training for the freestyle and snowboarding events has had to be rescheduled to the alpine venue of Whistler where there has been plenty of snow, but sits two hours to the north.

As a result, the training switch has caused some problems for the Australian and British competitors taking part.

"We are staying in the Athletes Village in Whistler but some couldn't get rooms because they are already filled by other athletes," said British snowboarder Zoe Gillings.

As the Olympic torch arrived at Whistler, protesters were gearing up to make their point to correspond with the opening ceremony on Friday with more than 15,000 security personnel in place to monitor demonstrations.

Olympics organizers have agreed to set up designated zones where protesters can have their say with a dizzying array of grievances being voiced - from supporting the homeless and poor to claims by pro-Native Canadian groups that the Games are being staged on 'stolen land'.

"We think that the majority of the protesters will be peaceful," said Steve Sweeney, deputy chief of Vancouver Police, whose officers are expected to face attempts to disrupt the torch relay on its way to the opening ceremony.

"If they're going to tackle the torchbearer, that's unlawful."

IOC president Jacques Rogge is adamant that the Vancouver Games, the costs of which have been swollen by a whopping $955 million for security, will have a crucial legacy.

"The Games are not a panacea for all that ails a host city or country, but they can be a catalyst for profound and positive change," he said.

The 2010 Winter Olympics get underway on Friday and run until Feb 28, featuring some 2,500 athletes from 80 countries and regions.

Source: China Daily/Agencies
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