Snow in Beijing

Have you been following the Beijing Olympics? I haven’t but this picture and article caught my eye.

It reminded me of my first winter in Beijing.

It was 2009 and the one regret I did not have in leaving Canada, was missing the Canadian winter.

“It never snows in Beijing,” they said.  “It used to snow in Beijing, but that was twenty years ago.”

Well, in the year that we arrived, it snowed in Beijing. Three times in seven days in November, well before the first snowfall in Toronto.

Beijingers then, were not equipped to handle snow. Stick brooms and dustbins were used to remove three inches of the heavy white stuff.

I remember thinking that the sweepers moved in clouds of muffled desperation. Part of it was their bulky winter suits stuffed with padded jackets, sweaters and scarves. The other part was their resignation in doing endless tasks with impossible tools. Just like their routine of sweeping roads, one cigarette butt at a time, even as drivers tossed fresh litter out of their cars.

First snow in 20 years (Beijing, 2009)

Based on the New York Times article, the sweepers are still tackling snow with impossible tools.

Beijing, a water-scarce city, went to great lengths to ensure that there would be enough snow to sustain its run as host of the Winter Olympics. That meant embarking on one of the most extensive snow-making operations in the history of the Games. The herculean effort included flooding a dried riverbed, diverting water from a key reservoir that supplies Beijing, and resettling hundreds of farmers and their families, who were living in what is now the competition area, in high-rise apartments.

“Olympic venues get real snow, a rarity” – By Daniel Victor, Rebecca Thomas, John Branch and Keith Bradsher – New York Times, Feb. 12, 2022

For all of the herculean effort to divert water and resettle farmers and their families, you’d think they could have afforded snow shovels to clear the snow.

Of course, I’m ignoring the real issue, which is that the organizers did not anticipate getting real snow at the Beijing Olympics. All the snow required for winter sports was to be created by manmade machines.

Which begs the question …

Should a country which does not have real winters be hosting the winter Olympics? What does it say about climate and environmental priorities when a country redirects water supply to generate fake snow? In a city which is one of the most water scarce cities in the world? Where it is still not safe to drink the tap water?

Lest anyone think I’m only China bashing …

Shouldn’t the IOC have some criteria for selecting host countries which include environmental and human rights policies?

According to their website, “The IOC is at the very heart of world sport, supporting every Olympic Movement stakeholder, promoting Olympism worldwide, and overseeing the regular celebration of the Olympic Games.”

Too bad that there’s no mention of respecting the world in which humankind lives.

17 Comments

  1. All very valid points. I too have wondered why the Winter Olympics weren’t being held somewhere, well, more wintery! I guess the counter argument would be that it’s more inclusive to allow any country to bid to host, as is feasible for the Summer games, but with all the world’s environmental challenges, creating fake snow does feel like one indulgence we could manage without!

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  2. The IOC seems to be a bit of a dodgy organization, nowhere near philanthropic. With half a ear on listening to the Olympics, I heard the comment, “How unusual – it’s snowing – this IS a rare event. And I thought, they are holding the Winter Olympics, what a silly statement. Then I found out about the fake snow.
    I feel so sorry for the displaced farmers and yes a snow shovel might have been a sound backup choice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m always hesitant to bash a country for hosting the games. When China hosted the 2008 games, it was accelerated alot of initiatives to leap frog the country into 20th century. They built out city infrastructure, cleaned up pollution, improved housing etc. The before & after Beijing was remarkable – speaking as someone who visited it & knew people there, before & after. I’m just not convinced that it was the exception or the rule. Seems like it’s more normal for cities to fall into debt and tradeoff questionable priorities

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      1. We won the bid for the ? games – can’t remember as it doesn’t interest me at all anymore, but it is the near future and I feel like we will just run into debt. Some short term employment will be created, but how much will lead to permanent employment. I am dreading it really.
        Just looked it up: Tuesday 24 August to Sunday 5 September 2032. I might be out of here then…

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  3. You know, I was just thinking this the other day when the Olympics were on as background noise in our living room (I’m not a fan). I thought it looked like the Alps and kept thinking, did they film this somewhere else? Is Beijing just the brand/theme and this is actually in Switzerland? I didn’t think Beijing was a winter sports country.
    If I were a conspirary theorist, I’d say Covid was manufactured in Wuhan as sabotage against the Olympics! 😋🤪 (hey, you never know!)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The IOC is all about money and they’re not above ‘sportwashing.’ It is sad that winter games aren’t in places where there’s natural snow, but in these climate change days, who knows where that is.

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  5. I remember visiting Beijing in 2009 a year after the Summer Olympics of 2008. We were told how artificial clouds were created for rain and the joke was if they had an artificial sun.

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    1. When I was there, there were enough stories about weather manipulation, some to literally control whether it’d rain or not, on the National Day parade. I recall though, that the agencies tried to minimize it’s use.
      On some days artificial sun in Beijing would’ve been appreciated. It could get pretty bleak there especially with the smog.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Does seem bizarre that we manipulate the weather to run a sport competition while we can’t manage to create an infrastructure fit to resist the impact of increasingly severe natural disasters. Perhaps if we built better infrastructure we would have severe storms but they wouldn’t be disasters, right?

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    1. There’s an environmental battle that needs to be fought on multiple fronts. In Vancouver there’s a open bid out for engineers to architect a wall or structure that’ll protect the city from natural disasters. And I read recently of a scientific breakthrough in using bacteria to deconstruct PET plastics. But I think that we also need to do more than clean-up after ourselves & safeguard against un-natural natural disasters.

      I think it’s sad that China spent so much in building out new infrastructure when they haven’t even cleaned up their own water supply. Access to clean water seems like a basic human right. Something which doesn’t need a natural disaster to justify.

      Liked by 1 person

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