Sochi Olympics 2014 Preview 

In February 2014, the city of Sochi will play host to the XXII Olympic Winter Games. It is the first time that the Russian Federation will have hosted the Winter Games since the Moscow Summer Olympics were conducted in 1980 under the auspices of what was then the Soviet Union. With a population of 400,000 people, Sochi is situated in Krasnodar, which is the third largest region in Russia. The process of selecting Sochi as the venue for these games began back in 2006, when it was nominated for consideration by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) along with six other cities, namely Salzburg (Austria), Jaca (Spain), Almaty (Kazakhstan), PyeongChang (Republic of Korea), Sofia (Bulgaria) and Borjomi (Georgia). After the field was narrowed to three, Sochi was chosen in a second round vote over Salzburg and PyeongChang on 4 July 2007.

The Games will take place in two “clusters.” The coastal cluster for ice events will be located in Sochi proper, while a mountain cluster is being prepared in the Krasnaya Polyana Mountains. This approach is expected to result in one of the most compact Games ever held, with only about 30 minutes travel time required between the two.

The Sochi Olympic Park is being constructed along the Black Sea coast in the Imeretinskaya Valley. Newly built facilities for ice events will include the Bolshoi Ice Palace, the Maly Ice Palace, the Olympic Oval, the Sochi Olympic Skating Centre, the Olympic Curling Centre, the Central Stadium, the Main Olympic Village, and the International Broadcast Centre and Main Press Centre. In Krasnaya Polyana, the mountain cluster in will be home to all of the skiing and sliding sports, with a sub-village and a sub-media centre on site.

Prior to the Opening Ceremony, an Olympic Torch Relay will be conducted. The Olympic flame is expected to arrive in Moscow from Greece on 7 October 2013 to begin a 35,000-mile journey lasting 123 days en route to the Central Stadium in Sochi. Organisers are recruiting 14,000 torchbearers, of which the youngest is reportedly 14 years old and the oldest is 93.

Several celebrities are expected to be among the relay participants, including four-time Olympic champion gymnast Alexei Nemov, three-time Olympic synchronized swimming champion Maria Kiseleva, and other noted athletes and public figures. Prominent among them will be Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, who became the first woman in space in 1963.

The Sochi Games will take place from 7 to 23 February 2014. Currently being scheduled are events in 15 disciplines of seven winter sports. Among the ice events are Curling, Ice Hockey and Skating, which includes Figure Skating, Short Track Speed Skating and Speed Skating. The outdoor mountain events range from Biathlon to Luge and Bobsleigh/Skeleton as well as Skiing, which features Alpine, Cross Country, Nordic Combined, Ski Jumping, Freestyle and Snowboard events.

As ever, the competition for medals should be fierce, with the Russian Federation looking to improve dramatically on the Olympic results posted in Vancouver, Canada in 2010. That year, the host country gathered 26 medals, ranking third to the United States (37) and Germany (26), with Norway (23) and Austria (16) just ahead of the sixth place Russian delegation (15). The Canadian Olympic Team recorded the most medals it had ever won plus a new all-time high of 14 gold medals, leading all countries and matching the all-time mark for any nation at a Winter Games.

When the Closing Ceremony sees the Olympic flame extinguished on 23 February, the Olympic flag will be passed on to PyeongChang, Korea to host the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in 2016. However, the winter sports competition in Sochi will continue with the XI Paralympic Winter Games, to be held from 7 to 16 March 2014.

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