It may have escaped the notice of everyone outside of the BBC, Vancouver and the Canadian helicopter pilots association but the 2010 Winter Olympics are due to kick off on Friday – assuming they’ve got enough snow to stage it.
Remarkably, as severe weather warning were issued by the Highways Agency following another arctic blast in the south of England, across the way in British Columbia the Olympic organizers are having to ship the stuff in – or more precisely airlift it in.
Last month Vancouver experienced its warmest January on record, and now the locals are looking forward to what is commonly being referred to as the Summer Olympics.
The slopes of Cypress Mountain, on the outskirts of Vancouver, have been so dry that they’ve had to bulk them up with 1,000 bales of straw, shoot ice and water out of snow cannons and stud the slopes with tubes of dry ice.
And as the crisis deepened this week, helicopters were summoned to fly snow in from higher elevations every five minutes while convoys of up to 200 lorries hauled loads in from three hours away.
Whistler, which lies at a higher altitude, two hours’ drive from Vancouver, does at least have plenty of snow for Friday’s ski-jump qualifying but with the east coast of America experiencing the snowiest winter on record, you’ve got to feel for the organizers.
On the plus side, at least it’s giving them publicity, which in the UK has been confined to the occasional trailer and former 400m world record holder Michael Johnson standing on top of a mountain and asking, ‘What makes man race downhill?’ in a deep and meaningful voice.
The fact is, in Britain we couldn’t really care less about the Winter Games basically because we are also-rans in just about everything apart from curling, which is bowls on ice for Scottish dinner ladies, and the women’s skeleton bob (have a couple of drinks, jump on a tray and bob’s yer skeleton). We don’t even have anyone as bad as Eddie the Eagle Edwards to laugh at any more.
Still, considering the obvious lack of natural resources, getting 55 British athletes to Vancouver at all is an Olympic achievement in itself. Especially, given that UK Sport allocates to winter sports 1.5% of the funding that is afforded to summer sports. The governing body for GB’s skiers and snowboarders even went bust a week ago, leaving the athletes to pay for themselves until the British Olympic Authority rather sheepishly baled them out.
What’s more, before anyone dismisses the Winter Olympics completely out of hand, Chemmy Alcott is worth five minute’s of anyone’s time – let’s just hope it doesn’t take her that long to reach the bottom.
It might also be worth seeing whether or not the Snow Leopard, Ghana’s first ever downhill skier, Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, can make it down the slopes in one piece. Given that Paddy Power have taken him under their wing as sponsors one suspects that morbid curiosity will not not disappointed.
At times like these Bet365.com famous adage should always be brought to the table: ‘It matters more if there’s money on it.’ So provided those Canadians find enough snow to compete on, there are worse ways of spending a wintry afternoon indoors than having a punt on the Winter Olympics. What are the odds?