Sochi, Russia prepares for Olympics

Joe Bittner, ‘Doah Staff Writer
January 15, 2014

'Doah photo courtesy of img3.allvoices.com

‘Doah photo courtesy of img3.allvoices.com

Snowboarding, skiing and curling return to the center stage as the 2014 Winter Olympics come live from Sochi in Russia. World-class athletes train their entire lives for the opportunity to represent their country and try to earn gold. With the winter Olympics happening only once every four years, the pressure and tension is extremely high among athletes. But the dream of holding up a gold medal wearing your country’s flag makes you forget about all of the physical and mental stress the body is put through.

The winter Olympics showcase some of the most beautiful sports in the world, such as figure skating. The balance and grace shown by these athletes is incredible as they fly around the ice rink, jump into the air and spin, just to land on one skate perfectly.

The Olympics also displays some of the most dangerous sports in the world: ski jumping, bobsleigh, snowboarding and luge. Traveling at speeds upwards of 80 miles per hour (mph) down a course of ice-covered ramps on a sled weighing approximately 50 pounds makes luge one of the most extreme sports in the world. Another winter sport similar to this is skeleton.

Skeleton may be the most dangerous sport in the world when you look at the physics behind it. In luge, you lay on your back; in skeleton, you lay on your stomach. For men, the sled can weigh no more than 95lbs, and the combined weight of the sled and rider can be no more than 253lbs, meaning the rider can weigh no more than 158lbs! A male this size is not built so sustain the possible crashes that await them.

The females cannot have a sled weighing more than 77lbs, a combined weight of 202lbs and must not weigh more than 125lbs themselves. While these numbers are shocking, they do allow the rider more control and speed during their time trial.

Here is a complete list of the sports that will be played this winter: alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsleigh, cross country skiing, curling, figure skating, freestyle skiing, ice hockey, luge, Nordic combined, short track speed skating, skeleton, ski jumping, snowboard and speed skating. Many of these names may confuse you, or be sports you’ve never heard of. Let’s look at some of them.

The biathlon in the winter Olympics combines cross country skiing and rifle shooting. In its most basic form, biathletes will ski across a cross-country “trial system” in which their cross-country distance will be broken up by at least two trips to the shooting range.

At these ranges, they must hit five targets while in two different positions: standing and prone. If at the end they have missed a target, they must ski 490 extra feet, add one minute to their overall time or use an extra cartridge to shoot the targets (there are only three extras available) and a penalty loop must be added if they can not hit the targets with this extra cartridge. Simply, ski as fast as you can and shoot the targets as fast as you can.

Next is the Nordic combined. This is a combination of cross-country skiing and ski jumping. The contestants will start with a ski jump that will earn them points for distance and style. These points will rank them in the order they will start the cross-country race in. The first contestant to cross the finish line at the end of the race wins.

This is not to be confused with Alpine skiing however. In Alpine skiing, there are five events: downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super G and combined. Downhill is a race against time down a very steep slope. The slalom is a shorter race in which the skier must maneuver around sharp turns and flags. The giant slalom is a longer version with less severe turns. The super G is an even longer slalom race that moves at a faster pace. The athletes finish with the combined event, which is one downhill run and two slalom runs. The point of the whole event: have the shortest time and do not crash.

Day in and day out, these athletes sacrifice their health and safety to do something they love. This is something everyone should respect and support. It seems president Obama does not agree though. He has publically said he will not attend the Olympics in Sochi, making this the first Olympics since 2000 not attended by a president, first lady or vice president (Kovalyova and Smith, NBC News 2013). Well, why won’t Obama be in attendance? He’s too busy. Or so he says.

Recent tension between the US and Russia over several issues, such as the Syrian civil war, has prompted Obama to “put his foot down” on the Olympics simply because they are in Russia. One major issue Obama has is that Russia is banning homosexual propaganda during the Olympics. In response to this, French President Francois Hollande and German President Joachim Gauck will also not be attending  the Olympics.

If Obama is trying to make a statement to Russia about their stance on homosexual athletes, why not go to Sochi and support the American Olympians in person instead of staying home? The Olympics are not about politics; they are about the world’s best athletes representing their country. Why not go and show the openly gay American athletes that their president- their commander and chief and elected leader- supports what they do and who they are as people despite what other countries say?

Russia made it perfectly clear how they feel about this when Head of Russian Olympic Committee Alexander Zhukov told NBC News, “The Olympic Games are the competition of outstanding sportsmen and this is the main reason why they are interesting. It’s not a summit, which only the country leaders attend. So we’re not really concerned about it,” (Kovalyova and Smith, NBC News 2013).

The opening ceremony will take place on Friday, February 7. After the ceremonies in the past, we can only expect this one to be the most extravagant one yet. Make sure to tune in to see some of the most exciting athletic competitions in history.


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