Vancouver will cope whatever the weather: organizers

By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The weather is forecast to be a problem for one venue at next month's Vancouver Olympics but organizers promised on Wednesday that it would be fit for purpose whether Mother Nature cooperated or not.

Cypress Mountain, which will be used for freestyle and snowboard events, suffered a significant snow melt-off last week and no storms are expected to replace it before the Games begin on February 12.

"The forecast is not looking to be in our favor as we look through the next week, week and a half," said Cathy Priestner-Allinger, executive vice president for sport at the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC).

"So we're actually planning that we will not have snow (fall) and that temperatures may not be agreeable so that we can make snow," she told reporters.

VANOC said it had been making and stockpiling snow near Cypress before the weather turned, and the task now was now to move it to the competition area.

"There's a lot of snow on the mountain, it's just not in the place we want it," said VANOC's chief executive John Furlong. "It's not going to be easy, but we'll get it done."

Helicopters may be used to move some of the snow into position.

The weather has not been as much of a problem at Whistler, the venues for nordic and alpine skiing which is located about 125 km (80 miles) north of Vancouver and at a higher elevation.

Organizers said their first priority was to make sure the competition areas had enough snow and they were not worried that the surroundings would not look the way television viewers would expect them to look at a Winter Olympics.

"We are concentrating entirely on the field of play, and that's where the cameras are for the most part," Priestner-Allinger said.

VANOC has not had to dig into its contingency fund to pay for bringing in the snow.

In fact, one official joked, they could just spend some of the money they had set aside in case they needed to remove an excess of snow from Cypress Mountain.

(Reporting Allan Dowd, Editing Nick Mulvenney)