News / Europe

Olympic Games Begin in Earnest Saturday

Poland's Kamil Stoch jumps during the men's normal hill ski jumping training at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Feb. 7, 2014.
Poland's Kamil Stoch jumps during the men's normal hill ski jumping training at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Feb. 7, 2014.
Parke Brewer
Five gold medals will be awarded at the Sochi Olympics Saturday as 16 days of competition begin in earnest.

Ninety-eight medal events will be contested at these 22nd Winter Games, 12 more than in Vancouver four years ago. Among the new events are women’s ski jumping, team figure skating, mixed relays in luge and biathlon, as well as some freestyle skiing and snowboarding events added to attract younger audiences.

Competition will take palace at the Olympic Park by the Black Sea, which features seven new indoor venues, as well as in the mountains where all the outdoor events are located, relatively close to one another, and reachable by bus or train in about an hour from Sochi. It is the most compact Winter Games ever.

  • Fireworks are seen over the Olympic Park during the opening ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 7, 2014.
  • Actors perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games, Feb. 7, 2014.
  • A general view shows a scene from the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 7, 2014.
  • The colors of the Russian flag are seen during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 7, 2014.
  • A general view shows the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 7, 2014.
  • A scene from the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 7, 2014.
  • International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach of Germany talks to Russian President Vladimir Putin during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 7, 2014.
  • Flag-bearer Todd Lodwick of the U.S. leads his country's contingent during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 7, 2014.
  • OlympicsA map of Canada is projected onto the stadium floor as athletes march in during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 7, 2014.

​In all, about 5,500 athletes and team officials are here from an expected 82 National Olympic Committees, the same number as Vancouver four years ago.

The United States has the largest delegation of athletes with 230, host Russia is next with 225 and Canada has 220.

Alan Ashley, Chief of Sport Performance for the U.S. Olympic Committee says American athletes have had great success internationally this season and that bodes well for a good showing in Sochi.

“Whether we win the medal count or not, I mean one of the things I can tell you is everybody comes here to compete. They come here to compete at the highest level, and we’ll see where the chips fall," said Ashley.

Ashley said that with dedication and perseverance, U.S. athletes have recently become more competitive in sports like biathlon and cross country skiing.

“By sticking with it for so long, they have developed their career in a way that they come here with a level of success where they really can have a good showing at an Olympic Games in sports in which we haven’t had that much success," he said.

The USOC’s Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun says the safety and security of athletes and the entire U.S. delegation is naturally a primary concern.

"As we always do, we work very closely with our State Department. Our State Department is in very close contact with the local authorities, and we react to situations as they arise, but we also have a lot of planning exercises in advance, and these Games are no different than any other Games in that respect," said Blackmun.

Blackmun added that the challenges at the Sochi Olympics are different because of the known terrorist threats, but he expressed confidence that the Russian authorities have been doing everything they can to keep everyone safe.

U.S. alpine skier Julie Mancuso, a four-time Olympian with a gold and two silver medals, shared her thoughts on the security issues.

“We’ve had a lot of, you know, headlines and people calling me [and saying] like ‘just be safe in Russia,’ and I think the issues within the country, it’s difficult, and as an athlete we’re here to compete and I just really trust in everyone keeping us safe.  And I’m just here to really take it all in and enjoy the experience and try not to worry about anything else," said Mancuso.

Sergey Demidov, Deputy Chief of Sports with Russia’s Itar Tass News Agency, said in a VOA interview that the Russians are hoping all Olympic visitors will feel confident in the organization of these Games.

“We want all guests of the Olympic Games, all athletes from all the world to be really happy here. All we hope really from our hearts, we want you to look at the best side, you know not about all those [negative] Tweets [about some of the lodging issues on Twitter], you know, look at the bright side. Look around and you will see many great things," said Demidov.



Demidov said neither the Russian journalists nor the athletes are predicting how successful the Russian team will be.

“We don’t count medals. There is a common feeling that every medal - gold, silver or bronze - it doesn’t matter. It will be like a brilliant medal and that every participant, each of our 225 athletes on the Russian team is our real national hero, and all of them are just the same," he said.

Gold medals in five sports will be contested Saturday - women’s moguls in freestyle skiing, as well as a cross country event (7.5km+7.5km skiathlon), and the men’s 10 -kilometer biathlon, 5,000-meter speed skating and a new snowboarding event called slopestyle.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs