Vancouver’s winter weather nightmare raises questions about Olympic readiness
The last two weeks have been a winter weather nightmare for Vancouver, with huge dumps of snow followed by rain, heavy slush and flooding. All over the city, people are griping about the toll storm after storm has taken on their holiday season.
But they’re asking another question, too: what if it happens during the 2010 Winter Olympics?
Really? Was that top of mind when you were stuck for an hour waiting for a SkyTrain at metrotown? Or when you were unable to get around on the North Shore because of bus reroutes?
I suppose at least it is welcome that there is some acknolweldgement that some organisations are admitting they were not that well prepared.The airport for example – “We have already ordered a couple of extra pieces of snow-clearing equipment for 2010″ – tho0ugh I am not sure that a couple of pieces is quite enough. I think some variable sign messages at the east end of Sea Island would be useful too, to divert people to lots where there are parking spots instead of wasting time in line ups trying to get out of lots that have no space available.
The city’s transit system will be different in 2010, with more buses and a new subway line that won’t be affected by weather because most of it runs underground, said Ken Hardie,
But that new subway emerges from its tunnel at Marine Drive and then is in the open all the way to both Richmond Centre and the airport. And the short platform lengths mean the SkyTrain method of operating longer trains with a driver are not an option for the Canada Line.And while they may be more new buses, will there actually be funding in place to ensure that they will be operating
But my real point is that Olympic readiness is frankly a minor headache. We can expect the weather to get steadily worse. Yes we came near to breaking records this year – but the idea that this is exceptional is wrong headed. When climate changes, precedents are no longer a guide as to how to proceed. Steering the ship by staring at its wake is pretty stupid. Because the planet is warmer now, there is more energy driving the weather systems. Because the ocean is warmer, currents are changing. This means that more severe weather events are inevitable – and they will of progressively greater severity. We have done nothing very much to reduce our contribution to this process, and failed this year to agree to do anything different. And the scientists are now admitting that their earlier forecasts were far too conservative as they left out a number of feedback mechanisms.
It is now too late to stop this process. But it does mean we have to revisit our contingency plans and get ready for a different weather pattern than the ones we have been using for event planning. And I for one have very little confidence in organsiations which admit that their plans are dependent on divine intervention. But mostly planning should not be what to do for the Olympics but what to do to make sure the place does not come to a grinding standstill for days on end when confronted by entriely predictable worsening weather conditions.