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The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games are open. On Friday, 7 February, the Russian resort’s Fisht Olympic Stadium hosted the Opening Ceremony which, in a colourful and lively display, marked the official start of the 22nd edition of the event. The event brought many elements of Russian history and culture – such as the Bolshoi Ballet – and reached its climax when two Russian sport icons, former ice hockey player Vladislav Tretyak and former figure skater irina Rodnina, lit the Olympic flame.(Check out the images of the Opening Ceremony)
Over the next 16 days, more than 2,500 athletes from around 80 countries will participate in the last Olympic competition before the Rio 2016 Games. The Paralympic events will take place between 7-16 March. For the Rio 2016 Committee, it is an opportunity to gain experience to be used to celebrate unforgettable Games in two years’ time.
Sochi, with around 350,000 inhabitants, is the first Russian city to host the Winter Olympic Games. This edition will include competitions in 15 sport disciplines, split into two competition zones: the Coastal Cluster and the Mountain Cluster. On the coast, six venues will host indoor events: ice hockey, curling, figure skating, speed skating and short track speed skating, as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. The biathlon, cross-country skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboard, Alpine skiing, bobsleigh, luge, skeleton, ski jumping and Nordic combined competitions will take place In the Caucasus Mountains.
Brazil will have a record level of participation at the event. In total, 13 athletes will vie for the country’s first medal in the history of the Winter Olympic Games: the flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony Jaqueline Mourão (cross-country skiing and biathlon), Isabel Clark (snowboard), Leandro Ribela (cross-country skiing), Jhonatan Longhi (Alpine skiing), Maya Harrisson (Alpine skiing), Josi Santos (freestyle skiing), Isadora Williams (figure skating) as well as Edson Bindilatti, Edson Martins, Fabiana dos Santos, Fábio Gonçalves, Odirlei Pessoni and Sally Mayara (bobsleigh).
Located in Krasnodar Kai region, Sochi lies on the Black Sea and is close to Russia’s southern border. One of the 2018 FIFA World Cup host cities, the city’s average temperature is 8.3 degrees Celsius at Games time, which may make it the warmest Winter Olympic host city in history.
One of the early highlights of this edition of the event was the torch relay. The ceremony, which lasted 123 days, saw the torch travel more than 65,000 kilometres in the hands of 14 thousand torchbearers, visiting almost three thousand cities. The tour’s highlights included the North Pole, where the torch arrived on board icebreaker 50 Years of Victory, and a spacewalk in the International Space Station’s external area.
“To realise what a great achievement this is, we should remember how things were seven years ago, [when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) elected Sochi…Russia used the] candidature for the Olympic Winter Games 2014 as a catalyst for the development of sport, a city and a whole region. [Now we can see the results]: a project to modernise a regional summer resort and at the same time a project to transform it to a year-round international tourist, convention and sports destination”, IOC President Thomas Bach said in his speech at the opening of the Committee’s recent session.
The Winter Olympic Games were first held in 1924 in Chamonix, France, and were then still called “International Winter Sports Week”. They were traditionally held in the same year as the Summer Olympic Games until 1986, when they were separated and, since then, they take place at four-year intervals, two years removed from the summer event.