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


The last Winter Olympic Games were hosted by the Russian city of Sochi in 2014. The alpine and nordic skiing events were held in Krasnaya Polyana in the Western Caucasus, which was 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.