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

    Wife of IS Leader Charged in Death of US Hostage

    Suspect allegedly admitted to being responsible for American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who officials say was sexually abused and ‘owned’ by one IS member

    Year of the Monkey Could Prove Economic Balancing Act for China

    China is up against a tricky situation on the financial front, facing the need to fight capital flight while also stopping a further slide of foreign currency reserves

    Runners Attempt 26-mile South Pole Marathon in Sub-Zero Temperatures

    How alluring is running 26.2 miles at 10,000 feet when it’s minus 31 Celsius out?

    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.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.