In Sapporo, on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, preparations are far advanced for the Winter Olympic Games which open on 3 February.
In Sapporo, on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, preparations are far advanced for the Winter Olympic Games which open on 3 February. In the run-up weeks, troops of Japan's Self Defence Forces have been playing a vital role in preparing the snow-slopes for the various events of the games.
Steady snowfalls and low temperatures in the past week have gladdened Olympic officials. But confidence has not always run so high.
The mountains at Sapporo lie below 5,000 feet (1,500 metres), and unseasonably warm weather in late autumn and early winter brought the organisers face to face with the possibility that there might be no snow.
Elements of four S.D.F. divisions were sent in to bring snow to Sapporo, and laboured away for weeks. At one stage the snow was melting as fast as they could move it; now the courses are all right, and the troops' main task is to deal with fresh falls of snow.