The 100-day countdown to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics began Tuesday. While several events took place in Russia, the host for the Games that officially open February 7, the United States Olympic Committee held a special event in New York City.
Five huge Olympic rings were installed at Sochi's main train station to mark 100 days until the Opening Ceremonies for the 22nd Winter Olympics that take place in the city on the coast of the Black Sea. And after the Olympic torch relay passed through the historic suburbs of St. Petersburg on Monday, the flame was flown for its stop Tuesday in Kaliningrad, in the westernmost region of Russia.
In the United States the 100-day countdown to the Sochi Games was highlighted by the gathering of about 50 Olympians, Paralympians and hopefuls at New York City's Times Square. A three-block section was closed off for meet-and-greet autograph sessions with school children, fan sport experiences, interactive elements, Team USA giveaways and sponsor engagement.
Also featured were athlete sport demonstrations on specially installed ice and other dry land training structures, including trampolines so freestyle skiers could show off some of their aerial moves.
Two-time world champion ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White were in attendance. They won the silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and Charlie says they are aiming for gold in Sochi.
"It is exciting just being just 100 days out from the Games," White said. "I think our training is really ramping up, but at the same time we are trying to just do what we usually do. You know, we have had a lot of success and we are going to try to stay the course for now."
Three-time Olympic cross country skier Kikkan Randall was unable to be at the New York event because she and some of her teammates are currently training on a mountain in far off Alaska. She explained the reason for the locale during a windstorm via telephone.
"I think it will be fantastic training for Sochi because our [Olympic] cross country venue is up at the top of the gondola, so we find that up here in Alaska with the variable weather conditions it is definitely getting us very well prepared for the Olympics," said Randall.
Randall is hoping, in what will be her fourth Olympics, that she can do what no other American female cross country skier has ever done - win a medal.
"It still makes me feel like a kid on Christmas [day]," said Randall. "It is coming at just the right time. I remember being at my first Olympics in Salt Lake [City] and being so excited to be there representing Team USA and dreaming about the skier I wanted to become, to eventually compete for the first-ever Olympic medal in women's cross country skiing."
Last winter Randall had an excellent season, winning her second straight International Ski Federation cross country sprint title and finishing third in the overall standings, the highest ranking ever for an American woman.
New International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Monday. Putin was quoted by Reuters as saying Russia will work to make sure "participants and guests feel comfortable in Sochi, regardless of nationality, race or sexual orientation."
Bach told the Around the Rings website that he is "very satisfied" with the Russian president's fresh commitment to ensure there is no discrimination against gays at the Olympics.