Weather forecasts for sports events

E. Linacre & B. Geerts


One consideration in the scheduling of the 17th Olympiad in Sydney, Australia between 15/9 - 1/10/2,000 is the excellent outdoor climatic conditions for athletes at that time of the year (Note 16.I). Heat stress in particular is much less likely than it was during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA.

American forecasters supported those Games by issuing more than 2000 weather bulletins over six weeks (1). The outcome was an absence of weather-related deaths, significant injuries and damaged properties despite thunderstorms, high temperatures and rain. Nature played its part too: the extreme heat indices common to Atlanta in August did not occur during the Games. Preparations began in 1989. Planners needed information on aspects of weather affecting transport, emergency management, security, fire, shelter from rain, water supplies etc.

There was concern over the effect of heat stress on the horses in equestrian events, the effect of strong wind on diving events, rain on tennis courts, dew on cycling tracks. The more difficult equestrian events were preferably held on cloudy days. Sailing competitions required 6-20 knots of wind, and no waves over 2 metres. Lightning warnings required evacuation of a field of play, several times. Precise wind and cloud forecasts were needed for the opening and closing ceremonies. Rain warnings led to stowing of expensive equipment.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology provided focused weather forecasting and monitoring support during the 2000 Olympics. Special mesoscale numerical simulations are sometimes conducted for other large sports events, such as the America cup (sailing) and the winter Olympics, e.g. in Salt Lake City,Utah, conducted in 2002.



(1) Rothfusz, M.R. McLaughlin and S.K. Rinard 1998. An overview of NWS weather support for the XXVI Olympiad. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 79, 845-60.