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26 January 1995: Granada fails to provide snow for Alpine World Ski Championships

The special procession in January 1995, in which the Virgin Mary was asked to provide snow for the championships. Below, Gian-Franco Kasper and Jerónimo Páez make the announcement.
The special procession in January 1995, in which the Virgin Mary was asked to provide snow for the championships. Below, Gian-Franco Kasper and Jerónimo Páez make the announcement. / IDEAL
  • It was calculated that local businesses lost nearly nine million euros in potential revenue

There was disappointment in Granada on 26 January 1995 when fears that had been worsening over the previous weeks were confirmed.

Swiss official Gian-Franco Kasper then secretary general (today president) of the International Ski Federation, read a statement, broadcast live on national TV, to announce that the Sierra Nevada '95 Alpine World Ski Championships had been cancelled.

The venue was lacking one vital ingredient - snow - despite attempts to influence the skies with an outing of the image of the Virgin Mary the previous week.

The two-week championships had been due to start on 29 January that year following months of preparations.

The city of Granada and its ski resort were ready to welcome some 1,200 international journalists following the progress of the 500 skiers from 50 countries who had been training for the event.

Kasper, along with the secretary general of the organising committee, Jerónimo Páez, explained that the competition would be postponed for a year.

They couldn't risk beginning the event and having to cancel halfway through, he explained; the ongoing drought had deprived the Sierra Nevada of natural snow and the daytime temperatures were too high to guarantee the production of artificial snow.

In the weeks leading up to this unprecedented decision, ski resorts in Austria, Switzerland and the Spanish Pyrenees had offered to take over the organisation of the championships.

Fortunately for Granada, the FIS decided to keep the venue the same and wait a year. Indeed Granada did host successful world championships in 1996.

Three days after the announcement, on the day the championships were due to be opened, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía visited Granada to cheer up disappointed organisers, staff and volunteers and encourage people to support the organisation of the event for the following year.

Meanwhile local hotels, shops, bars and restaurants had been calculating their losses and concluded that they had lost out on business worth 1.5 billion pesetas (just over nine million euros).

The Junta de Andalucía's then Finance minister, Magdalena Álvarez, calculated that the region had missed out on 600 million pesetas (3.6 million euros) in terms of lost sponsorships and TV rights.

The absence of snow in Sierra Nevada was just one consequence of the drought period that began in 1991 and came to end with long-awaited rain at the end of 1995.

That year is often mentioned in reports concerning the current drought situation in Spain caused by lack of rain.

Some reservoirs were reported at the end of last year to be at their "lowest levels since 1995."

The year 1996 couldn't have started more differently from 1995.

Spain saw its most copious snowfall in years and millions of winter sports fans admired Granada and the Sierra Nevada at their best.