Artificial city

Why Beijing’s artificial snow at the 2022 Winter Olympics is causing controversy Global Voices Français


“初级雪道 / Entry Level Ski Slope” by living pine is licensed under (CC BY 2.0)

With the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China February 4-20, Beijing will become the first city to welcome both winter and summer games. The Chinese city has been abuzz with activity, COVID-19 preparedness and controversy ahead of the Games. However, with virtually no precipitation in the country driest region in recent weeks, environmentalists have raised concerns about the city’s snow – or the absence of.

In the absence of any snowfall, organizers in Beijing resorted to creating fake snow to the alpine hills Yanqing Ski Center and exploded 290 guns, also called “snow cannons” 24 hours a day since December 2021, to prepare for the Games. In fact, for the first time, all snow at the next Olympics will be entirely artificial.

AT create snowthe turbines mix the water with the compressed air, before propelling the droplets through the air to form snow. Workers driving “snowcats” spread snow on the ski slopes and carve jumps and turns. This is to ensure that venues have snow that meets specific standards for depth, hardness and consistency.

“The biggest challenge for us is to maintain uniform snow quality,” said Li Xin, deputy chief of mountain operations at the Yanqing National Alpine Ski Center, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Beijing, according to a report. France24 report.

Experts have expressed concern about the environmental sustainability of this process, because artificial snow requires thousands of liters of water and kilowatts of energy. And in a 2020 study published by the nature reviewscientists have warned that groundwater depletion in northern China is one of the most severe in the world due to urbanization, lack of rainfall and intensive agricultural irrigation, calling it a “problem critical”.

It is estimated that the Games will need nearly 49 million gallons of water to create enough artificial snow for the winter events. In their Pre-Games Sustainability Report Organizers estimated around 890,000 cubic meters of water would be used in Yanqing from November 2021 to March 2022 and 1.9 million cubic meters in Zhangjiakou, with actual figures to be released in the post-Games report.

Environmentalists have also raised concerns about the proximity of the 4,600 hectares Songshan National Nature Reserve. Many are also concerned that the noise pollution from the artificial snow cannons will disturb the fauna of the reserve.

In Beijing, state-controlled media touted the upcoming games as a feat of sustainability, even going so far as to call them the “green games.” In their Pre-Games Sustainability ReportBeijing 2022 organizers highlighted steps taken to reduce carbon emissions and use renewable energy.

In an article by the state corporation China Daily news site, critics have argued that snowmaking is not an irreversible water-consuming process, but that snowmelt water can be recycled in reservoirs. As part of the Games, the organizers have set up three reservoirs that will collect and recycle melting snow and rainwater for the manufacture of artificial snow.

But experts have other ideas. Professor Carmen de Jonghydrologist at the University of StrasbourgParis, commented “This could be the most excruciating Winter Olympics ever…these mountains have virtually no natural snow.” Due to the high water and energy consumption, she said, fake snow will harm soil health and cause erosion, not to mention the chemicals used to keep the snow from melting. Other concerns arise over the time required for the artificial snow to melt. According to a History of Spiegel in 2008it takes about two to three weeks longer to melt than natural snow and May affect normal groundwater levels.

Games organizers expressed a different view, saying concerns about artificial snow are “ill-informed and unfounded”. Joe Fitzgerald is a Canadian slope construction expert hired as a consultant to Genting Snow Park, Zhangjiakou, Hebei Province, which is co-hosting the Games. He Recount the state-owned China Daily, which snowmaking has been practiced at eight other Winter Olympics and Beijing is no exception. He also noted that artificial snow helps create an even surface, reducing the incidence of injuries from falls on snow.

But other winter sports experts and athletes disagree, saying artificial snow causes more injuries because it is wetter and becomes harder and denser, meaning a fall can lead to more injuries. serious injuries.

Artificial snow is not a new phenomenon to the Winter Games and was first used at the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York, USA, to subsidize low levels of natural snow. It was after a exceptionally dry winter compelled the organizers to make artificial snow on the various sites.

Other experts previous Olympics insist that it is difficult to rely on natural snow when staging the Games, which can also have an impact on fairness in competitions.

Various users have taken to Twitter to voice their concerns or share their thoughts on the use of artificial snow.

New to research from the Sport Ecology Group at Loughborough University in England and the environmental group Protect Our Winters suggest that as the climate crisis continues to worsen, winter sports could become less feasible and even become more dangerous. “The risk is clear: human-caused warming threatens the long-term future of winter sports. This also reduces the number of climatically suitable host sites for the Winter Olympiad. The report adds:

“Climate change is eroding the ability of snow and ice sports to take place under natural conditions…We hear that heavy use of artificial snow could lead to more injuries, warnings of environmental damage caused by pesticides used to keep artificial snow cold, worries that grassroots opportunities will dry up as ski seasons become more erratic.

During this time, a new study in the Current Issues in Tourism Journal shows that only one of the previous 21 Winter Olympic venues will have enough ice and snow to host the Winter Games by 2080 if global emissions remain on the current trajectory. The same study reveals that in the same year, there will only be nine cities in the world with enough snow to host the Games.

“No sport can escape the impacts of climate change. Achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement is essential to saving snow sports as we know them and ensuring that there are places around the world to to host the Winter Olympics, said Daniel Scottresearcher and lead author of the study.

It remains to be seen what the organizers of the Beijing Olympics will do to alleviate the environmental concerns discussed above. It will also provide the International Olympic Committee (IOC) food for thought when considering future hosts and venues for the Winter Olympics.