The City of Sapporo received a 35 cm snowfall earlier this week, finally giving the Japanese city a wintry feel – but too late for the popular Snow Festival that was held earlier in the month that annually boosts tourism with entertainment, sports events and elaborate ice sculptures.
A snow drought that had left the city without any snow cover since December forced organizers to transport snow from elsewhere, and cancel the annual ski marathon.
That’s a significant cause for concern for the Sapporo 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid that would be held in February if the International Olympic Committee (IOC) selects the Japanese city to host.
The snowfall has been well below average across Hokkaido island north of Japan, including in Niseko Village where some ski events are proposed.
A warming trend has caused an increase in average temperatures over the past century, and snowfall amounts have dropped since Sapporo last hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972. Dr. Tomonori Sato, an associate professor of Hokkaido University, told AP that winters on Hokkaido Island will continue to warm over the 10 years ahead of the 2030 Games.
He predicts that there will be snow for an Olympics in 2030, but that may not be the case in the longer term.
The Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) last month approved Sapporo’s bid, clearing the way for the city to engage with the IOC in an ongoing dialogue. No timetable has been set for the selection of the 2030 host.
Studies have shown that climate change could make many traditional winter sports cities poor choices for future Games, and the IOC has said that this will will result in less bids to host.
The IOC said in January that Sapporo, along with Salt Lake City and Barcelona, had entered discussions with the intent of hosting a future Winter Olympics. Last week, Salt Lake City formed an organizing committee that could change the focus of the U.S. bid to 2034.
On Thursday, former Chief of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics John Furlong called for his city to bid again for the 2030 Games, but any possible project is in the very early stages. Lviv in Ukraine last year expressed interest in hosting the Games in 2030.