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The Winter Olympics 2010: Weather Problems

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February 10, 2010

What if they had a Winter Olympics and no snow came?

That's not exactly what's happening in Vancouver, site of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, but it's close.

The warmest January on record has helped melt off most of the accumulated snow. Rains have done the rest. What is left at Cypress Mountain, site of the snowboarding and freestyle skiing events, more resembles sand than snow.

The result is that Olympics organizers are bringing in snow from surrounding areas by the hundreds of truckloads. Oh, and last-minute training has been called off for snowboarding, skiing, and other snow-dependent events.

Still, weather forecasts for the next several days are calling for rain and freezing temperatures. Whether that means the organizers can halt trucking in more snow remains to be seen.

The story is a bit different in Whistler, site of the Alpine events. Fresh storms (including snow) are forecast for the next few days, and worries about extended fog (and the resulting low visibility) have put last-minute training sessions in doubt. Skiers must complete one test run before an Olympic competition can proceed. Well aware of this rule, race officials have been carefully preparing the courses, including adding water to harden the surface. Such a practice does make the course more able to withstand battering from the kind of rainy, warm weather that the overall area has been experiencing recently; but such watering can also make the course more slippery.

Also from Whistler comes the story of the cat that crossed the finish line. On Wednesday, before fog canceled training for the day for the men's downhill, a lynx wandered onto the course and actually walked across the finish line. The big cat didn't have any identifying marking, so no country could claim victory just yet.

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