February 4, 2010 / 1:11 AM / in 8 years

Vancouver mayor says weather worries overblown

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Vancouver’s mayor has played down the threat to next week’s winter Olympics posed by the city’s unseasonably warm weather.

Games organisers have been forced to truck snow to the Cypress Mountain venue from as far as 150 kilometers (93 miles) away to replace what was lost in the warmest January on record for the area on Canada’s Pacific coast.

The Olympics’ opening ceremony is scheduled for February 12, but venues are due to be opened for athletes to practice on over the next few days.

“The international media coverage has painted an incorrect picture of the weather situation here,” Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson said on Wednesday. “We have the warmest January in history in Vancouver, but Whistler has lots of snow.”

The mountain resort community of Whistler, British Columbia, about 125km (80 miles) north of Vancouver is the venue for alpine skiing and Nordic events.

Cypress, which will host freestyle skiing and snowboarding, is just outside of Vancouver in what local residents call the North Shore mountains.

“Those of us here know that it is always hit or miss in the North Shore mountains depending on the winter,” Robertson said.

Ironically, the weather worry for Vancouver officials last year was too much snow in the city that usually has some of the mildest winters in Canada and where even a mild snowstorm can cause traffic chaos.

Such fears prompted the city to buy extra snow-plowing equipment, which has seen little use this winter.

“We didn’t go overboard, we didn’t have the budget or weather history to warrant it,” Robertson said.

The mild weather has been linked to an El Nino event, a periodic warming in the Pacific Ocean that affects global weather patterns and occurs only once every two to seven years.

Reporting Allan Dowd; Editing by Ian Ransom

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