SOCHI, Russia — The sun shines brightly as a gentle breeze rustles palm trees along the shore. The forecast calls for a mostly clear sky with mild temperatures through the week.
Welcome to the Winter Olympics.
The 2014 Sochi Games will take place 1,000 miles south of Moscow, at a Black Sea resort that qualifies as one of only a few Russian cities with a subtropical climate.
If that seems less than hibernal, the organizers insist they can stage a successful competition no matter what kind of weather there is over the next month.
Their “Guaranteed Snow” program involves millions of dollars in meteorological and snow-making technology. Just to be sure, they have also called upon shamans to pray for flurries.
“And its working!” Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the organizing committee, recently tweeted.
Over the last seven days, storms have blanketed the nearby Caucasus mountains where skiing, snowboarding and sliding events will take place. Still, the region has a history of warm spells that can arrive overnight.
“It’s obviously a concern,” U.S. skier Ted Ligety said. “It’s something we’re going to have to deal with when we get there.”
This is not the first time the Winter Games have been held in less-than-frigid weather. As recently as 2006, Turin, Italy, played host with its humid, subtropical climate. Four years ago, the days were warm and rainy in downtown Vancouver, B.C.
Like both of those cities, Sochi will divide the competition between arenas in the city and outdoor sites at higher elevations.
Weather should not be a concern for the skaters, curlers and hockey players competing in five venues that make up the “coastal cluster.” Inside the Ice Cube Curling Center, “we check for humidity, dew and temperature, as these are all factors that affect the condition of the ice,” said Mark Callan of Britain, one of the officials in charge of the venue.
Short-track speedskater J.R. Celski of Federal Way explained that the racing surface is “really determined by the rink itself and the generators below the ice.”
The mountains are far more vulnerable.
In Vancouver, rain damaged the moguls course at a venue overlooking the city. Organizers employed trucks and helicopters to bring snow from higher elevations.