Sochi Looks Like It Will Have Enough Snow For Olympics, But Contingency Plan Is In Place
Russian Meteorological Office Dir Roman Vilfand on Friday claimed that Sochi "will have enough snow for the Winter Olympics in February, according to the AP. Concerns about a "snowless Olympics were raised after two test events in Sochi had to be cancelled last February because of a lack of snow or rainy weather." SOCOG officials had "worked out a Plan B, which included storing 450,000 cubic meters of last year's snow on the slopes through summer and installing what they described as Europe's biggest snow-making system." But Vilfand said that event organizers will "probably not need the extra snow because data shows that Sochi will have enough natural snow" (AP, 12/13). SI.com's Tim Newcomb reported in the case there is not enough natural now, Sochi has 400 "snowmaking cannons producing snow crystals after cool air and water mix at just the right temperature" to make sure the five different snow-requiring venues have "plenty of powder." For in-game emergencies, Sochi has "even constructed an above-zero snowmaking plant at the ski jump/Nordic combined venue at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center, the easternmost venue sitting at the lowest elevation of 2,000 feet, that can produce snow at temperatures up to +15 Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit)." Int'l Ski Federation freestyle skiing coordinator Joseph Fitzgerald said that this course of action "appears better than the plan" VANOC officials had in '10 at Cypress Mountain (SI.com, 12/11).
FREE SPEECH IN DESIGNATED AREAS: IOC President Thomas Bach said that Russia will "set up public protest zones in Sochi during the Winter Olympics, a move unlikely to defuse criticism of the country's human rights record and a recent law banning gay 'propaganda.'" He said that Sochi organizers "notified him of the decision during their report" to the IOC exec board on Tuesday. Bach said that specially designated zones would be established for "people who want to express their opinion or want to demonstrate for or against something." The AP's Stephen Wilson noted the decision to open protest zones "comes amid continuing Western condemnation" of Russia President Vladimir Putin's "record on human rights and the law banning promotion of 'nontraditional sexual relations' to minors." At the '08 Beijing Games, where China "came under scrutiny for its human rights record and policy on Tibet, officially sanctioned protest zones were located miles from venues and were unused" (AP, 12/10). BLOOMBERG NEWS' Jonathan Mahler wrote, "Yes, this is how the IOC plans to deal with a 2014 Winter Games host country that treats gay people like drug dealers" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 12/11).
SECURITY REACHES SEVERE HEIGHTS: The AFP's Maria Antonova noted the "use of drones is part of a package of security measures that are severe even by standards of recent Olympics and remind many Russians of the draconian lockdown imposed for the 1980 Moscow Games in the Soviet Union." Authorities will "record the Internet and phone connections of all visitors and traffic will be strictly controlled in a huge zone around Sochi." A government decree states that people with Olympic accreditation, including journalists, athletes and judges, will "have records of their phone and Internet connections stored in a database for three years and available to the security services on an as-needed basis." Security analyst Andrei Soldatov said, "They are using old Soviet approaches, only combining them with huge amounts of money" (AFP, 12/12).