Not content to come in fourth in the world medal count for the summer Olympics, Australians now want to make the podium more often in winter sports.
Yes, Australia, that dry, flat, and unspeakably hot country with roughly 20 million people and 98 million sheep.*
To that end, Aussies built a $45 million (US) winter training facility in Melbourne, where temperatures regularly exceed 30C. (For American readers who don’t understand metric units, that’s hotter than 10 football fields.) This madness is apparently inspired by the fact that Australia scored a gold in freestyle moguls and a bronze in aerial skiing during the last winter Olympics.
Now, I applaud competitive spirit, I really do. I also appreciate a desire to beat the odds, daring to dream and attempting the impossible. But this project raises many questions.
First there is the issue of how Australians plan to find enough snow to ski properly. I’m told by a reliable source that it does snow periodically in the Blue Mountains, but I have yet to see photographic evidence of same. I suspect what’s really happening is that the local icing sugar factory is having emissions problems.
Of course it is possible to manufacture snow — ski resorts do this all the time if there isn’t enough local precipitation. However, the technique requires the air temperature to be either just above freezing, or below freezing; otherwise all you get out of the machine is water. Indeed, Australians have been unknowingly buying used snow making equipment for years: business liquidators have been marketing them as lawn sprinklers.
Assuming you attempted to make snow only in the Australian “winter” and only at higher altitudes, there’s still the question of ground temperature. Snow might come out of the machine only to melt on contact; seeds that have been dormant for decades waiting for a drop of moisture would suddenly spring to life. Skiers would find themselves trying to slalom through mud and tropical rain forest. At this stage the kangaroos would call their mates over to point and laugh.
There’s also the issue of the Australian’s national dress. Winning at skiing, like most other Olympic sports, has come down to a matter of milliseconds. A loose t-shirt and shorts aren’t very aerodynamic. Neither is a surfboard strapped to the back.
Indoor training would be possible, but costly. To compete in figure skating, speed skating or hockey, you need … ice. To make a decent ice surface you need lots and lots of water, something that can be hard to come by in arid Australia most years. You also need something known as an ice resurfacer (also called a Zamboni), a device especially made for making ice smooth. If Australians think their airplane tickets are costly, wait until they see the shipping costs for one of these babies, which weighs in at 2900 kg (6400 lbs).
Apart from the technical aspects, there’s the problem of the athletes, coaches and spectators themselves. An ice rink is a climate-controlled building, and most Aussies have strange religious objections to either central air or central heat; they prefer to tough it out.
That said, Australians are well-known for suffering hypothermia if the temperature drops below 20C; they shake their fists at the sky if a single cloud dares to drift by. Thus, they will categorically *not* want to train or sit in an ice rink, which is about as toasty as their food freezer. Plus there’s the problem of all that beach sand they’ll track into the building, which will make the ice into mush. They’re going to have to import their athletes from Canada.
The real kicker however, will be at the Olympic podium. That’s because assuming they can overcome all these geographical and climatic obstacles and produce world class winter athletes, you just know the announcer is going to credit the medal win to…
* Give or take.
Photo Credit: Tylerindiana / Pixabay