After more than a week of competition on courses lined with machine-made snow, actual snow and high winds forced the postponement or cancellation of at least three Olympic events on Sunday as giveaways blanketed the courses and slippery roads making access difficult.
Yes, the Winter Olympics can be very wintery – even in Beijing and its surrounding areas, an area where little natural snow falls and has seen so little dust so far during the Games.
The snow started to fall steadily on Saturday in Zhangjiakou, a city located approximately 100 miles northwest of the Chinese capital and host to some skiing and snowboarding events. It also snows continuously in Beijing and Yanqing, home to sledding and alpine skiing. Some events, including alpine skiing and biathlon, continued in low visibility conditions, with skiers rushing (and in the latter case, shooting) through flashes.
Some athletes even seemed to thrive in it. Marte Olsbu Roeiseland won her third gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, and fourth overall, in the women’s 10km biathlon. France’s Quentin Fillon-Mayer won his second gold of the Games in the men’s race, the opposite, 12.5 kilometres, by hitting all 20 of his goals despite a gust of wind.
In the Royceland match, Fionn Millais now has four medals in total – two gold and two silver – in Beijing, giving him one more than Russian skater Alexander Bolshunov, who took his third when his team won the men’s 4x10km relay.
Snowy conditions slowed the race down, especially on classic legs, where runners must keep their skis straight and on the tracks. Leaf blowers were used to remove snow from ski runs during the event, which ended more than 20 minutes slower than the winning time at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
Other outdoor events just took the day off. The women’s downhill swimming event, in which 18-year-old Elaine Jo was the favourite, was The qualifying round has been rescheduled for Monday after a delay in the beginning of two hours; The women’s antenna qualifiers have also been postponed. On the slopes, workers used shovels, brooms, and blowers on the track to prevent snow from accumulating on obstacles and jumps.
The second training round in the women’s downhill has also been cancelled. Buses carrying Olympic visitors had to tie their tires with chains.
Outdoor Olympic venues – including alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowboarding – rely on Large doses of artificial snow. In many ways, organizers prefer artificial snow, because they can control it. When Mother Nature is involved, all plans stop.
2 to 4 inches of snow is expected in the area by Sunday night. A snowstorm warning was in effect during most Sundays in Zhongli District of Zhangjiakou, according to the Central Meteorological Observatory. A snowstorm warning went into effect in Beijing.
Sunday was the fifth snowfall in Beijing in winter, the dry season in Beijing and Zhangjiakou.
“Finally, it feels like the Winter Olympics,” Chris Blais of the US curling team said on Twitter on Sunday. He shared a video of his snowfall on Sunday, adding the hashtag #letitsnow.
Beijing, a city with water scarcity, has gone to great lengths to ensure there is enough snow to keep it running as the host of the Winter Olympics. This means embarking on one of the most Intense snow making in gaming history. The arduous efforts included flooding a dry riverbed, diverting water from a major reservoir feeding Beijing, and resettling hundreds of farmers and their families, who lived in what is now the competition area, in high-rise apartments.
Over the past few decades, rapid development has led to the depletion of groundwater in Beijing. July and August often bring heavy rain, but the city and the nearby mountains get only sprinkles of rain in the winter.