By Maria Mamaeva1 and Anna Kanukhina2
Students from Russian State Hydrometeorological University (RSHU) were given a unique opportunity to volunteer, starting in 2012, to be part of the meteorological team that would support the XXII Winter Olympic Games and XI Paralympic Games to be held in the city of Sochi (herein after referred to as Games) in 2014. The success of RSHU in the fields of meteorology and hydrology, as well as in scientific research, earned it this privilege.
RSHU has provided high-level meteorological and hydrological education and training since 1930 and, today, counts some 5 000 students from over 40 countries. As a WMO Regional Training Centre, RSHU also offers training to the staff of national hydrological and meteorological offices (NHMS) of WMO Members around the world.
In 1996, the RSHU Meteorological Faculty started teaching its undergraduate degree program in Applied Meteorology in English. RSHU adopted this approach to bring graduates closer to the international meteorological community and to enable them to communicate with fellow scientists around the world as they pursue further studies and develop their careers. Experts in education and training, as well as representatives of NMHS and the WMO Education and Training Office, are invited to participate in the state examination committee for the English group every year. So far some 150 students have graduated from the program, receiving Honored Diplomas recognized by all WMO Members.
The RSHU volunteers for the Games completed an online application, provided recommendation letters and passed a face-to-face interview. The success candidates received full financial support from RSHU as of the autumn of 2012 to take part in the “Specialized hydrometeorological support of test events and the Sochi Olympic Games” workshops and training sessions organized by Roshydromet. During the training, the students got acquainted with the meteorological team with whom they would work during the competitions in 2013 and the 2014 Games. They students became familiar with the meteorological equipment that would be used during the Games and learnt various ways of using meteorological data, including radar data, numerical forecasts, observational data and nowcasting. They also discovered the FROST (Forecast and Research in Sochi Olympic Testbed) project. They gained practical understanding from exchanges with Canadian meteorologists on challenges and achievements during the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver and with Korea meteorologists planning for the next Winter Olympic Games in 2018.
The Russian HydrometCentre Sochi 2014 Organizational Committee scheduled a specialized sports-related training course “My work, Meteorology” which was held in RSHU in October 2013. In the two-day course, 20 students – from RSHU, Moscow State University and St. Petersburg State University – learned how to support different user groups during the Games by improving their communication skills.
Off to the games
The meteorological support team for the Games, made up of 15 student-volunteers and 2 RSHU graduates, went off to Sochi at the beginning of February where they will remain for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (February and March). Most of the students are from the RSHU Applied Meteorology program in English. All of the meteo-volunteers view their participation as a once-in-lifetime opportunity – a chance to touch the history of the country and the world.
One of the student volunteers, Alena Andonova, wrote RSHU expressing her enthusiasm, “I would like to thank the University, especially RSHU’s International Relations Office for this opportunity to work as a meteo-office assistant at the Olympic Games in Sochi. Now, I am a part of a great team of people who have been meteorologists and forecasters all of theirs lives, so I am very lucky! We want the Sochi Olympics to be spectacular and memorable event for everyone. I have a unique chance not only to watch the Games on TV or sitting in the stands but to ‘touch’ it myself, to help the Games happen. I am very glad that I am here in Sochi right now.” “We have a fantastic opportunity to see meteorology in practice and to understand how to apply the knowledge we received in RSHU,” said Svetlana Chernysheva. “We’ve learnt modern methods of weather forecasting and understand which is best in each different regions (mountainous areas, for example). And what an opportunity to observe interesting mountain weather phenomena.”
“I’m working with the best meteorologist in the beautiful biathlon centre. I love the biathlon, my stadium and of course my job!” said Evgeniya Durneva.
The theoretical and practical knowledge and skills acquired will be a valuable asset at the Games and as they further their university education. They will also be able to share experiences and knowledge with others in preparation of further sport events and relevant activities both in Russia and abroad.