On Sept. 29, the flame for the Sochi Games was lit in Olympia, Greece, where it began a record-breaking journey that ultimately takes it 40,000 miles around the host country of Russia. That trek - the longest in Winter Games history - will include memorable stops along the way, including a trip to the North Pole, the highest mountain peak in Europe and the deepest lake in the world. Chart the day-by-day journey of the flame, learn about its rich Olympic tradition and take a look at the specifications of the Sochi torch as it heads toward Fisht Stadium, where, on Feb. 7, it will set the XXII Winter Games underway.
There will be 11 venues used at the Sochi Games, most of which were newly built for these Olympics. The venues are divided into two clusters - coastal and mountain - with each having its own Olympic Village. The coastal cluster will host indoor events and is highlighted by Olympic Park, which will serve as a hub connecting all competition areas. Thirty miles northeast sits the mountain cluster, which will host outdoor events and is a quick stop away thanks to a new railway system created for these Games. Find out where the venues are located, what sports they're hosting and gain insight into their unique designs.
Though the Summer Games got a 28-year head start, the Winter Olympics have grown significantly since their 1924 debut and continue to appeal to a younger demographic with the addition of extreme-type events. Yet it's the sport of figure skating which has long been these Games' standard-bearer, from the majesty of Hennie and Button to the drama of Kerrigan and Harding. Thanks to a broad program of skiing events, however, Europe has emerged as winter's dominant force over 22 Olympiads. Discover the continent's preeminence on the medal stand, explore the Games' host cities and unveil its top moments and athletes.
Ten alpine skiing medals will be awarded in Sochi – five men’s and five women’s – as has been the case since 1988. The sport was introduced to the Olympics in 1936 and has been practiced in the European Alps for at least 150 years with its earliest competitive origins are in Norway. In five different timed events, skiers maneuver through gated courses. See what differentiates each event, what standard equipment is used, track the sport’s Olympic history and its most decorated athletes, and check out the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center that will be used for all alpine skiing events in Sochi.
Biathlon at the Sochi Games will feature a familiar face to American fans of the NBA – billionaire Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov – who has been in charge of the sport in his native Russia since 2008. Prokhorov says he will step down if Russia fails to win at least two gold medals and was reportedly unhappy about the ‘Laura’ course in Sochi since it was not designed to give Russian athletes an advantage. This will mark the final Games for Norwegian legend Ole Einar Bjorndalen, a six-time gold medalist who will be 40 when the competition begins. The debut of the mixed relay event also adds another medal opportunity in 2014.
Curling is called “The Roaring Game” due to the sound the stone makes as it glides across the ice. The sport debuted in 1924, but didn’t officially return to the Olympics until 1998. It’s been a roaring success ever since, going from curiosity to one of the most popular events at the Winter Games. It also celebrates the Olympic spirit as an event that promotes sportsmanship, as teams are expected to shake hands before and after matches. Learn all about curling’s history, rules, equipment and terms to be better prepared to enjoy matches from Sochi’s Ice Cube Curling Center.
Several new and exciting events have been added to the program since cross-country skiing debuted at the first Winter Olympics in 1924. More than 310 cross-country skiers are scheduled to compete over eight days at the Laura Cross-Country Ski & Biathlon Center, going toe-to-toe in the individual start, mass start, individual sprint, team sprint, relay and pursuit races. While this sport has traditionally been dominated by Nordic countries, many athletes – such as the United States’ Kikkan Randall – are hoping to break through. Using skis and poles, cross-country skiing is considered one of the more difficult endurance sports on the docket.
While sleds were around for centuries as a mode of transportation, bobsled racing didn't begin until 1877 in Davos, Switzerland, where a steering mechanism was attached to a toboggan. A four-man race was held in 1924 at the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix and a two-man event was added in 1932 at Lake Placid. The sport evolved in the 1950s as aerodynamics came into play and new rules were put into place. Today’s bobsled is extremely dangerous with the sled acting almost like a bullet on skates. The most successful athletes possess the perfect combination of bravery, precise skill and sheer power.
One of the premier events at the Winter Olympics, figure skating actually got its start at the 1908 Summer Games – 16 years before the IOC opted to hold a winter version of the Games. Some of the Olympics’ most dramatic moments have come on the ice, and the Iceberg Skating Palace in Sochi will be the host of something truly original – the first Olympic team events. Much of the attention, though, will be on one of the most highly anticipated evenings of the Olympics, the ladies’ free skate on Feb. 20, as Americans Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner try to steal gold from heavily favored Mao Asada of Japan.
Freestyle Skiing has been a part of the Olympic program since moguls was added as a medal event for the 1992 Albertville Games. Over the last 20 years, the sport has continually expanded and in Sochi will include moguls, aerials, ski cross, ski halfpipe and slopestyle. Purists believe some or all of these disciplines are better suited to events such as the X Games, but the tricks, speeds and heights on display in the sport have only helped it grow in popularity over the last decade. Examine the five freestyle disciplines in more detail, take a look at some of the equipment involved and absorb just how risky the sport can be after several notable deaths occurred in the last few years.
Ice hockey at the Olympics has changed plenty since it made its debut outdoors at the Winter Games in 1924. Rules have been modified, the format has changed and amendments have been introduced to allow professionals to compete. While the basics of the game remain constant in North America and throughout the rest of the world, many differences will be noticed at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. The best players in the world will compete under international rules. Take a look at the game’s history along with how the game differs between North American and international competition, from rink dimensions to fighting tolerance.
One of the fastest and most dangerous sports in the Winter Olympics, luge requires equal parts skill, strength and bravery as sliders going feet first reach speeds near 80 miles per hour down a curvy, icy track on a small sled while protected by a helmet and skin-tight aerodynamic suit. The Sochi Games will introduce a fourth medal event for luge, the team relay in which a men’s single luger, a women’s single luger and a doubles team will race in consecutive fashion and have to make contact with a touch pad at the end of their respective runs for their teammates to start theirs.
Designed to determine the best overall athlete on skis, Nordic combined couples the core strength and bravado needed for ski jumping with the stamina required for cross-country skiing. Discover the technique that goes into both the cross-country race and the jump and see the sheer magnitude of the hills. Take an up-close look at the specialized equipment for both events and see how it is used in the competition. Major efforts were made to make Nordic combined more fan-friendly, so familiarize yourself with the intricate scoring system so you can follow along with the sport at home.
In a little more than two decades, the fast-paced event of short track speedskating has grown into one of the most thrilling at the Winter Games. Discover the equipment that allows competitors to keep going faster while remaining a little safer in the often treacherous sport. Find who has a chance to replace former U.S. Olympian Apolo Anton Ohno as the all-time leading medal winner in the event, what country has dominated recent games, what penalties can cause a dramatic change in the results and just how short a short track really is.
Skeleton ranks among the Olympic Games’ most exhilarating competitions with athletes sliding down icy tracks head-first on small sleds at adrenaline-pumping speeds of more than 80 mph. While the sport owns a long history, its Olympic track record is fairly limited, only finally debuting at the 1928 Games and later being banned twice due to safety concerns. The sport endured a 54-year Olympic absence after 1948 until finally being reinstated for the 2002 Salt Lake Games. With Skeleton back in the program to stay, learn more about its history, its rules and how sleds are designed to be as aerodynamic as possible.
A sport that dates to at least 1862, ski jumping has been a mainstay in the Olympics since the first Winter Games in 1924. Yet the appeal of it has hardly waned, as jumpers rocketing down huge ramps and launching themselves into the air on soaring downward journeys continues to thrill spectators. A spectacle that mixes grace, power and perhaps some voyeurism over the ever-present threat of a crash, ski jumping can still sometimes draw 70,000 fans to events in Europe’s Nordic countries and the central continent. Learn about the events and the technique used to pull off these bold leaps of faith, and read about women’s long battle to compete in Olympic ski jumping that has culminated in their Winter Games debut in Sochi.
The sport of speedskating, in its traditional and most-recognized long-track format, has been part of every Winter Olympics since the Games originated in 1924 in Chamonix. Those initial events featured only male competitors. Women's events were added as a demonstration sport for the 1932 Games, but did not receive official Olympic status until 1960. Men and women will each compete in six events on the 400-meter track at Sochi's Adler Arena, beginning with the men's 5,000 meters on Feb. 8 and concluding with both team pursuit races on Feb. 22. While the Netherlands' 82 medals are the most won in Olympic speedskating history, the United States leads the way with 29 golds.
Snowboarding has come a long way since skateboard enthusiast Tom Sims began producing the first commercial boards in the 1970s. It became one of the most popular events at the Winter X Games in the 90s, and made its way into the mainstream of pop culture with the meteoric rise of American superstar Shaun White. The sport has continued to evolve since becoming a staple of the Winter Olympics in 1998. After the snowboard cross discipline was added to the program in 2006, slopestyle will make its debut in Sochi. White remains the main attraction, and has some new tricks up his sleeve as he goes for a third straight gold medal in the halfpipe.