AP Interview: Russian organizers to seed clouds to prevent rain at 2014 Winter Games

By Stephen Wilson, AP
Thursday, June 10, 2010

AP Interview: Sochi to seed clouds at 2014 games

LONDON — Russia will use cloud-seeding techniques to prevent rain and ensure ideal snow conditions during the 2014 Winter Olympics, the local organizing committee leader said Thursday.

Dmitry Chernyshenko said organizers are developing several contingency plans — including stockpiling snow and dispersing clouds — to avoid the weather problems that plagued this year’s Vancouver Olympics.

“With all these positive techniques, we will guarantee the perfect snow conditions regardless of the weather,” Chernyshenko told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

February’s Vancouver Games suffered weather postponements and delays at the Alpine events in Whistler, and the cancellation of 28,000 standing-room tickets at Cypress Mountain due to warm weather and lack of snow.

“We learned all the challenges that Vancouver faced and now we’re in the process of creating a special program to mitigate any abnormal weather conditions,” Chernyshenko said following meetings in Sochi with Vancouver and IOC officials designed to pass on lessons from the 2010 Games.

“We will have all available techniques like stockpiling snow, protection of existing snow, even from the previous season, cloud dissolution, and technology to prepare the snow,” he said.

Seeding clouds, Chernyshenko said, will mean “the rain will fall in another region, not in the region of the competition.”

Cloud-seeding is a common weather tactic in Russia. The practice, which dates back to Soviet times, involves releasing silver iodide and dry ice particles into clouds. The clouds then disperse or release precipitation. Critics question the effectiveness of the process, which has also been adopted in China, Australia and parts of the United States.

Moscow authorities seeded the clouds ahead of this year’s celebrations of the 65th anniversary of Victory Day.

“We have got some expertise and experience in Moscow” Chernyshenko said. “They are used to organizing comfortable weather for big-scale events, so we will invite specialists from Moscow. We already came to an agreement with Moscow authorities for that.”

On other issues, Chernyshenko said organizers will advance venue construction “as much forward as possible” to build in enough reserve time and be fully prepared for test events ahead of the Olympics.

Virtually all Olympic venues in the Black Sea resort area are being built from scratch in a multi-billion-dollar project, with facilities set to be completed by the end of 2012.

“We are looking to make it even earlier,” Chernyshenko said. “We need to own the venues. We need to spend more time to train the personnel.”

And, to build national interest in Russia’s first Winter Games, Sochi will launch its Olympic mascot program next February, three years ahead of the games and earlier than any other organizing committee, he said.

Russia faces a challenge in trying to match the carnival atmosphere of the Vancouver Olympics, where the venues were packed and streets filled with passionate crowds.

“We recognize the importance of the engagement of the entire nation behind the games,” Chernyshenko said. “We want to reach the peak atmosphere during the games.”

The four-day “debrief” session involved a series of workshops on the logistics of hosting the games, including transportation, security and the Olympic torch relay.

John Furlong, head of the Vancouver organizing committee, said of all five debriefs he had attended this was “far and away the most extraordinary and complete exercise that I have been to.”

Furlong predicted the Sochi Games would be a “stunningly great experience” for the world.

“This is a fantastic place,” he said. “This is a jewel of a community. The geography here is riveting, stunning, beautiful, and I can’t even begin to imagine how beautiful Olympic venues will look against this backdrop.”

Associated Press Writer David Novak in Moscow contributed to this report.

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