Sochi basks in sunshine but organizers untroubled

Agence France-Presse

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The organizers of the Sochi Olympics played down concerns that spring-like temperatures could harm the Games

OLYMPICS AT SOCHI. The Olympic Rings are seen at the Adler airport, outside of Sochi, Russia, 25 February 2013. The 22nd Olympic Winter Games will take place in Sochi from 07 February until 23 February 2014. Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

SOCHI, Russia – The organizers of the Sochi Olympics Thursday, February 13, played down concerns that spring-like temperatures could harm the Games, as skiers donned T-shirts to stay cool amid temperatures better suited for sun-bathing than winter sports.

In a sign that a close eye was being kept on the weather, the organizers brought forward the start of the men’s super combined Friday morning by one hour to ensure the best conditions.

Training on Friday for the biathlon was also brought forward by two hours due to the warm weather conditions, which have already been blamed for several crashes in races.

“I’ve been in every Olympics since 1992 and we’ve never had temperatures like this for a competition,” said the technical delegate for biathlon at the Olympics, Max Cobb.

The Russian organizers have stockpiled vast amounts of snow from last season but Sochi 2014 spokeswoman Alexandra Kosterina said there had been no need to call on these reserves so far during the Games themselves.

“We have a strong contingency plan in place but we have not used the stored snow since the beginning of the Games,” she said, adding some of the stores had been used in the preparations.

Competitors and visitors were Thursday enjoying the balmy temperatures, strolling around in sun-glasses and T-shirts, in scenes more resembling a summer holiday than a Winter Olympics.

US cross country skiers Sophie Caldwell and Sadie Bjornsen felt the temperatures so hot for the 10km classic they skied in just a vest with bare arms and shoulders.

In the ski slopestyle, Bobby Brown of the US performed his twists and flips in just a baggy T-shirt and declared himself perfectly happy with the hot weather.

“I feel more comfortable, you don’t gotta wear a jacket. It’s always warm in Colorado in the spring so I love it. It makes me feel like I’m riding back home,” he said.

Temperatures Thursday rose as high as 16 degrees Celsius (61 degrees Fahrenheit) at sea level where the stadium events are held but this should have no effect on the indoor competition.

Even at the Rosa Khutor centre where the alpine events are taking place, temperatures were as high as 14 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit). Temperatures were only slightly slower at the Laura centre where the cross country events are held.

‘Constant battle with winter sports’

“I like this weather,” said the head of Russia’s Olympic Committee Alexander Zhukov, quoted by Russian media, rubbishing suggestions the weather was unsuitable.

“I like it by the sea and in the mountains where there is lots of white snow and the sun is shining.”

“All this concern about Olympics in the sub-tropics faded away as soon as they saw Sochi,” he said.

International Olympics Committee spokesman Mark Adams said all events were taking place on schedule and there was no reason for alarm.

“For the time being – and it is always a constant battle with winter sports – we are relaxed but watch the situation,” he said.

“There is plenty of snow already in place, it snowed a lot over the New Year and it is packed in hard. So I don’t think that will be an issue.”

Organizers said that they had brought forward the start of the men’s super combined to 0600 GMT Friday from 0700 GMT “in order to minimise weather influence on the competitions it was decided to move the start.”

Weather issues at the Winter Olympics are nothing new and hot weather caused severe problems at Vancouver 2010 as well as previous editions like Calgary 1988 or Nagano 1998. –

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