Sochi, Russia is the site of the 22nd Winter Olympiad. (Special photo)
Once every two years, the world is seemingly united for two short weeks under the spell of the Olympic Games. Together, nations all over the world anticipate and watch, experiencing the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. For many, this is even a time when heart-warming stories have even the most loyal USA fan cheering for an underdog from another nation.
And now, it’s that time again. It began on Friday, and now for the next two weeks, Sochi, Russia will set the backdrop for the new stories to arise out of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Though this Winter Olympiad will certainly see old records broken and new ones forged, Sochi has already gotten off to a strong start with some record breaking of its own.
Beginning in 2013 the Olympic torch began its journey in Greece before arriving in Sochi for Friday’s opening ceremonies. Traveling 40,000 miles, it is the longest torch relay in history, including stops at the North Pole and in space at the International Space Station. The torch also reached the Europe’s highest mountain, Mount Elbrus, and even the depths of Siberia’s Lake Baikal.
With an average February temperature of 42.8 °F, Sochi will be the warmest city to have hosted a Winter Olympic Games. It also breaks the bank for being the most expensive Olympics in history, at around $51 billion. By comparison, the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver cost around $8 billion.
And last, but not least, a record 88 nations have qualified to compete this year, which beats the previous record of 82 set at the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Sochi’s official Olympic logo is also different than any seen in recent years. Stepping away from tradition, the logo spells out “sochi2014.ru” in lowercase letters and is the first Olympic logo to incorporate a web address.
Mascots and Medals
This year’s Olympics will have three official mascots: a polar bear, a European hare, and an amur leopard, as elected by Russian citizens.
The 2014 Olympic medals depict the landscape of Sochi, with the sun’s golden rays reflecting through a prism of snowy mountain tops onto the sandy beaches of the Black Sea coast.
The front of the medals features the Olympic rings, while the reverse contains the name of the competition in English and the logo of the Sochi Games.
Athletes who win gold on Feb. 15 will be given special medals containing fragments of the Chelyabinsk meteor, a meteorite that crashed in Russia one year ago on Feb. 15, 2013.
The Games will be organized into two clusters of events. Ice events will take place in Sochi and mountain events will be located in the nearby Krasnaya Polyana Mountains, making this one of the most compact Games ever, with around 30 minutes travel time between the areas.
And though each Olympiad seems to offer a few new events, the 2014 Winter Olympics will introduce a record 12 new events, making them the biggest Winter Games ever.
Comprise of three mixed events, four men’s events and five women’s events, these are variations of sports already familiar to most, but here’s a rundown of what to look out for:
Biathlon Mixed Relay: Teams will be comprised of two men and two women. Women will open the relay, completing the first two 6 km legs and the men will complete the next two 7.5 km legs.
Figure Skating Team Event: Features teams made up of six skaters – one male, one female, one pair and one ice dance couple. Points will be awarded for each routine and the team with the highest number of aggregate points will win gold.
Luge Mixed Team Relay: Each nation will field a men’s singles sled, a doubles sled and a women’s singles sled. In this new format, a lugeur will wait at the starting gate while another one is already present on the track. Once the lugeur on the track hits a pad on the finish line, the gate will open for the next lugeur to come on the track. The ranking is determined based on the addition of the times of the three sleds.
Ski Halfpipe — Men’s and Women’s: Each athlete performs an array of big airs and other tricks in the halfpipe before being judged on technical execution, amplitude, variety, difficulty and use of pipe.
Ski and Snowboard Slopestyle – Men’s and Women’s: In these events, skiers and snowboarders combine airs and tricks on a course featuring rails and a variety of jumps before being scored on execution, style, difficulty, variety and progression.
Women’s Ski Jumping: The women’s normal hill event will mark the first time that women will compete in ski jumping at the Winter Games.
Snowboard Parallel Slalom – Men’s and Women’s: Riders will race two at a time down the same slope on two parallel courses, outlined with gates and triangular flags.