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

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web 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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs