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Assessment of the avalanche defence measures envisaged for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia

Skigebiet von Rosa Khutor

Fig. 1: View of the Rosa Khutor ski resort, where the alpine skiing events are to be held, also showing the construction works for the mountain village (photo: SLF, S. Margreth).

The next Winter Olympic Games will be hosted by the Russian city of Sochi in 2014. The alpine and nordic skiing events are to be held in Krasnaya Polyana in the Western Caucasus, which is home to the Mountain Cluster of venues (Fig. 1). This region ranks among those that attract the most snowfall in Russia. The downhill and super giant slalom slopes are especially prone to avalanches. For this reason, the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee recruited the SLF to examine the measures envisaged at the competition venues for guarding against avalanches, including retaining structures, dams constructed from soil, and artificial avalanche triggering systems (Fig. 2). In this context, a team of SLF employees travelled to the country to meet numerous Russian avalanche experts, safety officials and the event organisers. With the aid of avalanche dynamics calculations, they subsequently reported on the avalanche danger, examined the envisaged defences and, where necessary, suggested additional measures, such as the use of hand charges. The SLF team urgently recommended that avalanche bulletins, like those that are familiar in Europe, be produced alongside danger maps and evacuation plans for the individual competition venues. To this end, they proposed that a snow and avalanche information system be established, and that additional automatic measuring stations be integrated in the existing network.

Lawinensprenganlagen

Fig. 2: In numerous starting zones, avalanches are triggered by permanent Gazex explosive delivery systems (photo: SLF, S. Margreth).