Vancouver, Canada, the warmest host of a Winter Olympics in history? Go figure. With average February temperatures of 41°F (4.8°C) and the possible warming effects of El Niño, athletes and guests in British Columbia may experience the most temperate Winter Games on record. Even so, it will probably be a climatic shock to the athletes from Ghana, Bahamas, Gabon, Malta, and the Cayman Islands–tropical countries and territories participating in a Winter Olympics for the first time. One of those athletes, Ghanian Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, embodies this cold-sport, warm-weather dichotomy.
Also known as the Snow Leopard, Nkrumah-Acheampong, 34, grew up surrounded not by snow, but by savannah, learning to lead safaris, not run slalom. He has—literally—come a long way. Kwame discovered his knack for skiing when he moved to the UK (he was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and raised in Ghana) in 2003 and got a job at an indoor snow dome. Two years later, he tried real snow. As the only qualifying athlete from Ghana and the only black African skier, the Snow Leopard knows he will be highly visible in Vancouver in 2010. Wearing his trademark leopard-print ski togs, he doesn't want to just get down the mountain—he wants to compete. The world will be watching.
Todd Hays, an American bobsledding silver medalist, is acting out the spirit of the Olympics by lending one of his first sleds to the Jamaican bobsled team. Short on funding, the Jamaican team has been renting bobsleds, and they feel their performance will be enhanced with the acquisition of their own equipment for training and competition.