2014 Winter Olympics preview

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Olympic ringsThe games of the XXII Winter Olympiad officially began and I’m here with a lot to talk about.  By now as you all know, the Winter Olympics are in Sochi, Russia, and there are plenty of problems in part because of the climate.  It’s going to be warm there.  Don’t they have to bring in snow?  If you’re hosting the Winter Olympics, shouldn’t there be snow locally?!! More on that later.  The Winter Olympics are a ton of fun.  Personally, I like them more than the Summer Olympics in part because there are fewer events and sports to keep track of.  The hockey tournament is the best in the world and there are plenty of amazing athletes.  Time to get to the story lines, athletes and events to watch so let’s get right to it:

Winter Olympic Storylines

You would think we would talk about the actual events of the Winter Olympics when you talk storylines.  That, sadly is not the case.  Security is of utmost concern as the Olympics begin.  With terrorists threatening to strike at the games, there is a huge amount of anxiety for the athletes, tourists, fans and the media fearing for their safety.  Russia has pledged that the games will be safe and that no attacks will happen to anyone.  Easier said than done.  There have been terror attacks at a school and last December, 34 people were killed at a train station in the southern Russian city of Volgograd.  Russia has seen a steady increase in terrorist attacks over the past decade too.

You’ll have to forgive the American people, and perhaps the world Russia, for not believing that you can prevent a terrorist attack at the biggest event going on in the world right now.  In fact, a recent poll conducted by CNN says that 57% of Americans think there will be a terrorist attack on the games.  Perhaps that is just cynicism that Americans are filled with and they have no faith in Russia.  Let’s face it, Russia hasn’t always been the warmest or friendliest of countries to talk to.  President Vladimir Putin has expressed utmost confidence that there will be no terrorist attacks during the Olympics in or around Sochi and there are some 70,000 security and police officers to make sure that nothing will happen.  Security will be intense for spectators, but if it means no attacks, then so be it.  Within the “Ring of Steel” there lies comfort according to some in the media and the athletes themselves.  We can only hope that these games aren’t marred by attacks of any sort.

Sochi waterSecurity lately has been overshadowed by the amenities in which many members of the media are seeing firsthand as they prepare to cover the games.  Members of the media are finding their hotel rooms very unaccommodating.  No shower curtains, limited or zero wifi, no TV, water that looks like urine and is considered dangerous.  All of these things and more are what journalists and photographers from all over the world are being welcomed to.

Perhaps it is just the Media Village.  Oh but it gets better.  There are toilets that won’t flush toilet paper.  Into the bin they go the instructions say.  Can you say gross?!!  How can a country that is spending roughly 37-50 billion dollars not have infrastructure and technology ready for these games?  The media want to tell the stories of these athletes.  Accommodate them.  It’s not like Russia just found out that they were getting the games last year.  They’ve known for close to  eight years.  What was everyone waiting for?  These are already the most expensive Winter Olympic Games in history.  What has Russia been doing?  Picking their noses?  Sounds like there could be some swindling and corruption.  How did the International Olympics Committee (IOC) ever let Russia have these games?  Maybe thanks to a heroin kingpin.  What don’t these Olympics have?

The answer is snow.  In Sochi, the high temperatures will be in the upper 40s to low 50s the next ten days.  Well isn’t that great weather for the Winter Olympics?  Up in the mountains it will be colder, but for a city that is supposed to host the world’s Winter Olympics, couldn’t some below freezing weather and snow not be too hard to ask for.  Guess not.  They’ll bring snow in to this city located just off the Black Sea.  It’s a vacation hotspot and a favorite of President Putin’s.  Well isn’t that nice?  Hopefully the weather won’t have a huge impact on the games.

Shawn WhiteOh wait, it already has.  The inaugural slope style snowboard competition has lost a competitor.  American Shaun White has pulled out of the event to solely focus on taking gold for a third straight year in the half pipe after he hurt his wrist in a trial run Tuesday.  The course has been built a little higher so the impact of any melting won’t affect the riders as much.  Clearly it already has.  Some have said that White is being a bit over-dramatic by pulling out, but he has some nagging injuries.  It’s a big loss for NBC who will be broadcasting the Olympics to lose a star like White in this new event, but at least they still have him for one.  One of the favorites in the event was Torstein Horgmo of Norway.  He was the favorite until he broke his collarbone Monday.  He’s out of the games now.  The games haven’t even begun and already there is controversy and some pretty severe injuries to important athletes.

Hmmm, do you sense some negativity surrounding the Olympics?  Yes and that is sad.   The Winter Olympics have so much to offer.  So many great athletes and so many interesting and close competitions.  Other story lines related to the events themselves include:

  • Can Shawn White get a third consecutive gold medal in the halfpipe?
  • How will Jamaica’s (yes Jamaica) bobsled team do?  That’s right, the movie “Cool Rushing” has come back to life!  Wishing them the best of luck.
  • Speaking of bobsled teams, how will former track star LoLo Jones do in her bobsled debut?  Can she help team USA win a medal?  We can only hope so.
  • Will Canada’s men be able to defend their Olympic gold medal in hockey or will team USA led by Captain Zach Parise steal the show?
  • Curling!!

These are but a few of the many story lines to watch out for as events begin.  There are fifteen different sports that are in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics this year…

Snow Sports

  • Alpine Skiing
  • Cross-Country
  • Nordic Combined
  • Snowboarding
  • Biathlon
  • Freestyle Skiing
  • Ski Jumping

Ice Sports

  • Bobsled
  • Figure Skating
  • Luge
  • Skeleton
  • Curling
  • Hockey
  • Short Track
  • Speed Skating

There are going to be some intense races as the days go by.  A lot of these sports are pretty dangerous too.  Prior to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olymipcs, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili crashed during a practice run and died.  There is always the chance and risk of injury, sometimes severely.  That’s why it is important to really cheer and be in awe and inspired by what these athletes do.  The time, training and endurance that they have to have to make it there is truly something special.  Sure we can all hope that America does the best and wins gold, but don’t be so caught up in red, white and blue, that you don’t see the show and greatness that these other athletes from all over the world put on for us.  Assuming the events aren’t marred by tragedy, these XXII Winter Olympic games will hopefully be a blast and a big hit.

NBC OlympicsNBC, the broadcasting partner of the Winter Olympics has a great site that will have up-to-the minute results plus schedules, bios and so much more.  Click here or visit nbcolympics.com.

Finally, who will win the medal count?  USA won in 2010 in Vancouver with 37 medals, nine of them gold.  Russia will have athletes in every competition so they will have a good shot at winning.  Don’t count Canada out either.  But in the end, the USA is sending over 250 athletes (the most ever for the Winter Olympics by the USA) to compete and with that, they will win the medal count.  The Stack will be here with a blog most everyday during the Olympics with thoughts on the day’s events and a look ahead to the next day.  That will require some early morning 3 AM alarms, but for two weeks, it is well worth it.  Hockey, curling, speed skating, luge, bobsled, I’m all in.

Enjoy the Winter Olympics everyone.  May Russia not screw these up too bad. Let’s give them a chance.

Check your local listings for schedules on the NBC networks.

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