Sunday, February 07, 2010

Olympic organisers desperate for climate change

VANCOUVER — 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 February 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 organising 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. The fields of play are pretty much built."

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

Olympics organisers 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 torch-bearer, that's unlawful."

Vancouver Police expect to see around 1,500 demonstrators when the opening ceremony takes place.

"The International Olympic Committee is like the World Trade Organization," claimed Harjap Grewal, a spokesman for Olympic Resistance Network (ORN).

"Seven billion dollars have been spent on these Games while people are losing their homes in the Downtown Eastside (a Vancouver neighbourhood, often described as Canada's poorest district).

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