On Chinese snow.

Maybe I’ve been living under a rock too long. Maybe I’m just far too naïve for my own good. Naïve, almost certainly, but I wouldn’t say I was thick across the board. And yet it has never occurred to me that there is so little snow left that we have to make more snow to lend the illusion that there is plenty after all. I can give or take the Winter Olympics. I’ve been skiing a few times and am also enough of a twat to know that skiing is basically a sport for twats. It is a sport and pastime that is almost exclusively for the rich too, and while I’m no communist I think we should take that into account when we look at the Winter Olympics. Anyone can run (with a few of the obvious exceptions) but only a small proportion of the global population can ski; and yet we still have a Winter Olympics. And I will watch the Winter Olympics in patches: the snowboarders (who are, if anything, even bigger twats than the skiers), the curlers, the warm thighed bobsleigh types and the death wish skeleton enthusiasts, the fat skulled, toothless ice hockey merchants and the slightly insane skaters of both figure and speed. But in the end, it’s mostly skiing. All sorts of skiing. Oh, and then there is the Lycra, acres of the stuff, wrapped around tense calves, taut biceps and an endless gallery of muscular arses. There’s certainly a lot more Lycra than there is real snow. Which doesn’t quite make sense.

So, in my naivety I just assumed that the location for each Winter Olympics is based on a few key factors, chief amongst which are a sufficient infrastructure to support a major sporting event and, naturally, a shit load of snow. I mean, surely you’d think there are enough places around the world with snow in January that could support all that sliding and swooshing. Because by my estimation (though I’m nobody’s idea of a geographer) even now, at this time of year, you’d be able to take your pick from most of northern America, Europe and Asia, not to mention anywhere else with a few mountains. Surely if you even distributed it amongst a few sites that had some actual snow that would be better than choosing somewhere that these days sees about as much snow as your average giraffe. And yet (and only in a world this ridiculous) someone saw fit to cut through all the obvious and land in Beijing. In fairness Beijing does get pretty parky in the winter, but the season is short, and as the carbon choked winters pass by they seem to be turning ever more reliably from white into brown and green.

So, there is every chance that the Winter Olympics this year will be conducted on 100% artificial snow. There’s a term for that: galactically stupid. It is absolutely as stupid as holding a badminton tournament on the moon or a pool party at Michael Barrymore’s house. No, hold on, it’s totally as stupid as holding a Formula 1 race at night, just because you can. Or a football World Cup in Qatar, because you’re all corrupt bastards. Just take that badminton tournament – there you are, standing on the moon and someone says “hey, I know it’s a bit late to be worrying about this, but won’t the lack of gravity make it quite hard to get a rally in?” and someone else says “oh yes, shame there isn’t a planet nearby with the perfect gravitational conditions needed to support a game of badminton” and then someone else (invariably the person with the money, the power, the biggest ego and the tiniest dick) says “oh, it’ll be OK, we’ll just invest millions in artificial gravity machines, because we’re unstoppable morons”. Or something like that. And so this will be the first Winter Olympics to rely on 100% made-up snow, instead of the one that could have happened in Kazakhstan, where they still use that bloody awful stuff called real snow.

You could argue that it doesn’t really matter, but of course it really, really does. After all, we’re talking about over 222 million litres of water that will need to be converted into the white stuff (it should be noted that Beijing has become one of the most water scarce cities in the world; of course it has). There will be hundreds of snow guns and snow generators and snow blowers and snow spreaders working right round the clock to make all this snow, and each of them will be burning up energy and pumping out dangerous gases, like a cow doing power squats. And all in all an area of about 800,000 square metres of ground will end up being covered, which some smart arse will doubtless tell you is roughly the same size as a stupidly large number of football pitches. Not that those figures should scare you, of course, because China have promised a “green and clean” Olympic games, and I for one can’t think of a single reason why we shouldn’t trust the Chinese authorities; don’t forget we depend on them for a steady supply of lateral flow tests. Anyway, I think it starts next week and I expect I’ll follow it from a distance, if only on the off chance that I’ll see a skier go slightly off-piste and end up landing in a tropical rainforest. Incidentally, the competitors say that artificial snow is much more dangerous than the real stuff, but when you actively choose to hurl yourself down a mountain on some thin bits of plastic then you really don’t have much room to grumble.

G B Hewitt. 29.01.2022

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