Global Warming Means These Winter Olympic Cities May Never Be Able to Host the Games Again

The 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France marked the beginning of the nearly century-old sporting juggernaut that continues to attracts some of the globe’s most elite athletes. Somehow, most of the world forgets all about the multi-sport event until about a month before it takes place. But rest assured, the athletes haven’t.

Nevertheless, every four years, one lucky (or in some cases, unlucky) city pulls out the stops to host the Winter Olympic games. We all know the event preparation and execution commands a whole lot of manpower, money, and logistical genius. But the other key elements are snow and ideally, sub-freezing temperatures.

With the 2018 winter games in Pyeongchang, South Korea upon us, the reality of global warming rearing it’s ugly head is hard to ignore. Geography professor Daniel Scott, along with his trusted researchers, deduced that by 2050, the climates of past Winter Olympics host cities won’t make the cut. Thanks to global warming, these Olympic cities may never be able to host the games again. 

1. Sochi, Russia

United States players look dejected as Canada win the gold medal during the Ice Hockey Women's Gold Medal Game on day 13 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 20, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

Sochi was an odd choice to start. | Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

To begin with, Sochi was a bizarre selection for the winter games. For reference, the average temperature for the city in February is 50 degrees. Conditions and prep for the event were so touch-and-go that coordinators were stockpiling snow under shade trees from the previous winter.

Needless to say, conditions were subpar at best, and athletes made their opinions about it known. By 2050, the city has around a 40% chance of reaching daily below freezing temperatures during the month of February.

Next: This German city hosted the Winter Olympics when Hitler was in power.

2. Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

The temperatures are rising in the German town. | Lammeyer/iStock/Getty Images

The 1936 Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, took place under the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler, and at that time, the chances of the city having daily temperatures below freezing were close to 100%. By 2050, the chances of temperatures reaching the freezing point in February is expected to drop down below 60%.

Next: The games in this city were already subpar. 

3. Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver seems like the perfect spot, but it was above freezing.| HannamariaH/iStock/Getty Images

Conditions during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver were similar to those in Sochi. The daily above-freezing temperatures made for less than ideal competitive environment. According to Scott and his University of Waterloo researchers, Vancouver will not be a reliable location for future games. It’s expected that by 2050 the city will have a 60% chance of seeing daily temperatures below freezing in February.

Next: It’s hard to believe this city would be warming up. 

4. Oslo, Norway

Temperatures have risen significantly in Oslo. | Cornelius Poppe/AFP/Getty Images

Back in 1952, Oslo was experiencing freezing temperatures in February nearly 90% of the time. Today, the city sees an average of 33 degrees in February. Fast-forwarding to 2050, the chances of Oslo enjoying below-freezing February temps will drop down to around 75%.

Next: The OG Olympic city is feeling the pressures of rising temperatures.

5. Chamonix, France

Street view in Chamonix town, French Alps, France

Temperatures will likely rise over 5 degrees. | Kisa_Markiza/iStock/Getty Images

Despite some assumptions of climate change denialists, the proof is in the pudding, or rather, the facts. The original Winter Olympics host, Chamonix, will be anticipating temperatures much higher than its original 1924 records. Sadly, those temperatures are expected to rise by 5.4 degrees, by 2050.

Next: Will the third time really be the charm? 

6. Innsbruck, Austria

Cityscape of Innsbruck in Austria

Climate might be an issue for 2026. | Hiro1775/iStock/Getty Images

Innsbruck has a knack for hosting the Winter Games. Rumors are a-flying that the city may bid to host the 2026 games. But will the city’s climate hold up? Back in 1964 and 1976, the city was pumping out daily freezing temperatures nearly 100% of the time. And even though Innsbruck believes a bid for the 2026 games is “doable and affordable,” the climate is considered higher risk. The chances of daily freezing temps by February 2050 is around 80%.

Next: From Olympic games to civil war, can this city handle another catastrophe? 

7. Sarajevo, Yugoslavia

Sarajevo city, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina

The former Yugoslavia has climate issues. | Xantana/iStock/Getty Images

Sarajevo’s 1984 Olympic site eventually became a battleground in one of the 20th century’s most devastating civil wars. Now, the Olympic infrastructure is just a skeleton of the past — both memories of accomplishment and of devastation. The city’s ever-changing political environment isn’t alone. The climate is also heating up. A place that once experienced February’s freezing temperatures over 90% of the time can expect to see a drop to 80% by 2050.

Next: Another first may be on its way for this Olympic veteran.

8. Grenoble, France

The Grenoble-Bastille cable car and the mountains

The temperature will be up by 2050. | Duende_gris/iStock/Getty Images

While the 1968 Grenoble games provided quite a few firsts for the Olympics — color-broadcasting, doping controls, and gender tests — concerns surrounding climate wasn’t one of them. Unfortunately, the times have changed and sure enough, so has the climate. By 2050, the city should anticipate freezing temperatures in February about 80% of the time.

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