POSTED: October 9th 2013

NEIL WILSON: The winter Olympics were meant for ice and snow Games

Sochi is on the Black Sea and is known as the Russian Riviera
Sochi is on the Black Sea and is known as the Russian Riviera

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Thomas Bach may well be reminded when he makes his first visit as IOC president to Sochi later this month that its soaring costs is not the greatest of the problems to be met when it hosts the Winter Games in February.

Precedent suggests that the temperature that greets Bach may be above 20C because this is not a natural winter resort but one blessed with a sub-tropical humid climate. Even in February the average temperature is 10 degrees above freezing, the crucial point on the thermometer for a Winter Games.

What is more, an average of more than 75mm of rain falls in February, a huge threat to the skiing, skating and sledding events.  Scheduled competitions wiped out by inclement weather will not sit well with global television companies for a second consecutive Winter Games.
The IOC has long been aware of the potential risk in Sochi.

The temperature there during the period of the last Winter Games in Vancouver four years ago was well above 10C/50F. In Games time in February of this year it was 18.5/66 and Test events were cancelled. No snow cannon yet invented can produce the artificial variety at that temperature, or when it is raining.

Far too late now to recognize the error of awarding the Games to a summer resort by changing venues, and it is never possible to do like FIFA and change seasons. A winter Games is a winter Games.

But there is a way to offer protection from the weather to television networks at future Winter Olympic Games – add sports natural in winter that are not dependent on it.
Boxing and basketball are two. Squash and karate,  sports desperate for Olympic status, are others. All would fill television schedules when they are temporarily emptied of more traditional sports by the vagaries of the weather.

It is not a new idea. As far as I can find it was first suggested in Olympic circles back in the Sixties when ‘gigantism’ was first broached as a future problem for the big brother Summer Games. Snow and ice sports killed it for fear that they would lose their pre-eminence and the Olympic Charter 6.2 still insists that snow and ice is part of a winter Games sport’s definition.

But the Olympic Charter, like the US Constitution, is not set in stone. An IOC Session can amend it. And the idea’s resurrection now could serve a second purpose in the brave new world that Bach would like to be his legacy. It could bring fresh sports into the Olympic Games without exceeding the self-imposed limit on Summer Games of 10,500 athletes and 28 sports.

If Bach’s presidency is to be marked by thinking outside the box, why not.  Two birds killed painlessly with one stone.

NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

Keywords · Neil Wilson · Thomas Bach · IOC · winter Olympics · Russia

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