On top of all the talk over what a Winter Olympics in Oslo will ultimately cost Norwegian taxpayers comes another concern that one climate researcher fears has been largely overlooked: Norway may be able to put up a state guarantee for financing, but not that there will be any snow in 2022.
As Oslo residents headed into the Christmas holiday week on Friday, they already were missing the essential element for what many consider the perfect “jul.” There’s been little if any snow in the Norwegian capital so far this winter, and no signs of any coming by Christmas Eve.
Instead it’s been raining, with temperatures unseasonably warm for this time of year. Climate researcher Oskar Landgren warns that Olympic planners better be prepared for more such weather in the years to come.
“I’m skeptical about an OL in Oslo, out of consideration for the snow,” Landgren told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). “The climate statistics show that there can quickly be lots of problems with arranging a Winter OL here in 2022.”
Civic boosters and sports bureaucrats could heave a sigh of relief on Friday after risk managers examined the city’s plans for an OL and certified that it’s budgets were “only” about NOK 1.5 billion too low. While the state government may go along with the city’s requests for a financial guarantee of NOK 35.1 billion (nearly USD 6 billion) for an Olympics, it can’t do anything to ensure there will be enough snow and ice for all the skiing and skating.
Even though the winters in Scandinavia are expected to last longer than winters farther south in Europe, Landgren is surprised that there hasn’t been more debate or concern over prospects for snow.
“All our climate models suggest a warming trend, and the number of days with snow in Oslo have been reduced,” he told DN. Winter will be more unstable, with much greater variation in the weather than even now, when temperatures already are regularly going up and down.
That’s caused problems for local ski centers like Oslo Winter Park at Tryvann, and it can cause bigger problems for organizers of an Olympics. Landgren cautioned that no one can rely on artificial snow production, either, because it requires sub-freezing temperatures.
Eli Grimsby, director of the Oslo2022 planning committee, doesn’t share Landgren’s concern. Preparing for a lack of snow is part of her committee’s work, “and our conclusion was that we don’t view this as problematic,” Grimsby told DN. She stressed that most competitive slopes and trails are made of artificial snow anyway, at least as a base.
Øyvind Amundsen of the local ski association Skiforeningen noted that it doesn’t take much snow to provide good skiing conditions in the hills around Oslo. “All we need is around 10 centimeters to groom the trails,” he said.