Playing in the snow

The XXII Olympic Winter Games, which are scheduled to take place Feb. 7-23 in Sochi, Russia, mark the first Olympics for that country since the breakup of the Soviet Union. There will be 98 events in 15 sport), with some being contested in the resort town of Krasnaya Polyana.

The Sochi Organizing Committee (SOC), which will also present the Winter Paralympic Games, is spending an estimated $50 billion – five times more than estimated and double the cost of the London Games.

The commemorative postage stamps and souvenirs are set with images of the three Olympic mascots – a polar bear, a snow hare and a snowboarding leopard. And the Olympic torch – which was rekindled in ancient Olympia, Greece, in September – is winding its way through 83 Russian sites before arriving at Sochi on the day of the opening ceremony. It’s the longest torch relay in Olympic history, a 40,000-mile route that will pass through all regions of the country, from Kaliningrad in the west to Chukotka in the east.

And beyond: The Olympic torch reached the North Pole for the first time via an icebreaker ship and has been passed for the first time in space, with Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazansky passing it at the outlet of the International Space Station. The torch also reached Europe’s highest mountain, Mount Elbrus, and even the depths of Siberia’s Lake Baikal.

So this will be an Olympics of firsts and extremes. With an average February temperature of 42.8 degrees and a humid subtropical climate that allows for a wealth of palm trees and inviting beaches, Sochi will be the warmest city to host a Winter Olympic Games. Elsewhere, tradition will hold. Sochi 2014 will be the 12th straight Olympics to outlaw smoking. This means the new Olympic Park and 11 new sports venues will be smoke-free.

The Olympic Park itself sits on the Black Sea coast in the Imeretin Valley, which is approximately 2 ½ miles from Russia’s border with Georgia. The venues are clustered around a central water basin on which the Medals Plaza is being built. This means that the spectators will have an easy walk among the Fisht Olympic Stadium, which will host the opening and closing ceremonies and seats 40,000; the Bolshoy Ice Dome (ice hockey, 12,000); the Adler Arena Skating Center (speed skating, 8,000); and the Iceberg Skating Palace (figure skating and short-track speed skating, 12,000).

Meanwhile, Krasnaya Polyana contains the Laura Biathlon & Ski Complex for biathlon and cross-country skiing; the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park for freestyle skiing and snowboarding; the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center for alpine skiing; the Sliding Center Sanki for bobsled, luge and skeleton; the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center for ski jumping and Nordic combined (both ski jumping and cross-country skiing on a 2-kilometer route around the arena); and the Rosa Khutor Plateau Olympic Village.

The transportation infrastructure that is being prepared to support the Olympics includes many roads, tunnels, bridges, railroads and stations in and around Sochi. At the Sochi airport, a new terminal had been built. A new railway line was built to connect central Sochi and the local airport. This new type of electric locomotive, based on the Siemens Desiro design, has been developed for commuter transportation in the Russian environment. All Russian Railways facilities in Sochi have been built or retrofitted to accommodate disabled passengers.

At the Sochi seaport, a new offshore terminal allows docking for cruise ships with capacities of 3,000 passengers. Sochi is a meeting place between the sea and the mountains.

And now it is a meeting place for the world.


Free – and not so free – speech at Sochi

According to the Federal Target Program (FTP) $580 million is being spent on the construction and modernization of telecommunications in the Sochi area. Among the participating companies named by the Sochi Organizing Committee is Avaya Inc., a global provider of business collaboration and communications solutions.

Broadcasting rights to the 2014 Winter Olympics were packaged together with the 2016 Summer Olympics. In the United States, the Games have a $4.38 billion contract with NBC, extending its broadcast rights through 2020.

But just what will viewers be seeing? While Russia has already set up a zone for protesters, President Vladimir Putin has replaced RIA Novosti, the host news and photographic agency for Sochi, with the new Russia Today, to be headed by Dmitry Kiselyov, a prominent Russian television presenter recently embroiled in a scandal over anti-gay remarks. Kiselyov’s appointment will do little to allay international fears that gay competitors, officials and spectators may be targeted at the Sochi Games.

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