KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — With the Winter Olympics melting under a heat wave, the effects could be seen Thursday from the coast of Sochi, where spectators were spotted sunbathing, to the mountains high above the city, where cross-country skiers raced in sleeveless jerseys. The balmy weather has forced competition schedules to change, sent workers scrambling to harden the slushy snow, and made Olympians reconsider what to wear for their warm-weather winter sports.
“You sit outside in a T-shirt and shorts — that’s not winter,” said Christoph Sumann of the Austrian biathlon team. “You don’t know what to wear for the race.” He settled on the thinnest T-shirt he could find. A teammate, he said, wore nothing beneath his racing uniform.
“It’s absolutely too warm for me,” he said. “I’m a winter guy.”
So far, these Olympics have not been a good fit for those who like their Winter Games wintry. It has not snowed since the Olympics began last week, and most days have brought bright sunshine and springlike temperatures.
“I’ve never seen it this warm at a Winter Games,” said Max Cobb, a senior official with the International Biathlon Union who has attended every Winter Olympics since 1992. Cobb was in constant radio contact with the crew spreading salt, meant to turn the slush into water, then back into ice.
Weather for the 2014 Games has been a concern since the International Olympic Committee made Sochi the first subtropical host of the Olympics. The city in southern Russia sits on the Black Sea, some promenades lined by palm trees.
The men’s super combined Alpine ski race scheduled for Friday was moved to 10 a.m. local time from 11 a.m. to counter midday temperatures expected to approach the mid-50s Fahrenheit. Afternoon temperatures at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center, home of ski jumping and Nordic combined, reached 63 degrees Thursday.
At the sun-splashed site of the cross-country skiing events, where temperatures rose toward 60 degrees Fahrenheit Thursday, women raced in sleeveless jerseys that looked designed for a treadmill, not a winter mountain race. Fans wore T-shirts and skiers slogged through the soft snow — sometimes sleeveless, having peeled off outer layers.
Afternoon temperatures in the upper 50s were expected through Saturday across the mountain sites, including the bottom of the skiing site and the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, where snowboarding and freestyle skiing are being held.
Night will bring little relief, as temperatures are forecast to stay well above freezing. Cooler weather, but still above freezing, has been predicted beginning Sunday.