March 2014 Volume 11

A KCOB reviews the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia

Dwayne Stephenson
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Another winter edition of the Olympic Games came and went in the blink of an eye. For two weeks, the world was entertained by various athletes from the four corners of the globe competing in majestic events such as bobsleigh, hockey, figure skating, snowboarding, skiing and so much more. The city of Sochi played host to this marvelous winter sporting festival. Sochi? Where is that, you ask? Below is a short description of this famous Russian city.

Sochi is a city in Krasnodar Krai, in the southwest of Russia, located on the Black Sea coast near to the border with Georgia. The Greater Sochi area has a total area of 3,526 square kilometres (1,361 square miles) and sprawls for 145 kilometres along the coast of the Black Sea. The city proper has a total area of 176.77 square kilometres (68.25 square miles). The city has an estimated population of 350,000; 70% ethnic Russians, 20% Armenians, with the remainder being various ethnicities.

Sochi has the distinction of being one of the few Russian subtropical cities. What does that mean for the potential tourist? That means warm to hot summers and mild winters. So don't be afraid to bring your favourite holiday shirt and sandals! The main industry in Sochi is tourism, mostly land-based. With the scenic Caucasus Mountains in the background, its many sand and pebble beaches, subtropical vegetation, numerous parks and monuments, and its Stalinist architecture, Sochi plays host to Russia's rich and famous.

Bidding process

Sochi was selected to host the 2014 Olympic games in 2007, beating the likes of Salzburg, Austria and Pyeongchang, South Korea. The last time the Olympic Games were held on Russian soil was approximately 34 years ago, with the staging of the summer edition in Moscow in 1980. Many will recall that it was the first Olympics for Jamaica's most decorated female athlete Merlene Ottey.

Venues

The venues for the 2014 Sochi Games were located in two clusters: the newly-built Sochi Olympic Park near the coastline and the mountainous Krasnaya Polyana region. The Sochi Olympic Park consisted of: the Fischt Olympic Stadium (opening and closing ceremonies); Bolshoy Ice Dome and Shayba Arena (hockey); Adler Arena Skating Centre (speed skating); Iceberg Skating Palace (figure and short track speed skating); Ice Cube Curling Centre (curling); athletes' village; and an international broadcasting centre. The Rosa Khutor Extreme Park and Alpine Centre in the Krasnaya Polyana mountains played host to events such as biathlon, snowboarding, bobsleigh, luge, skeleton and the various types of skiing (cross-country, Alpine, freestyle and jumping).

Expenditure

An estimated US$51 billion was spent to put on the 2014 winter Olympics, making the Sochi Games the most expensive Olympics in history. The title previously belonged to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, with an expenditure of US$44 billion. The budget was allocated mainly for the construction of Olympic venues and new infrastructure for tourism, transport and power supply. International analysts and critics, however, have attributed the enormous cost to Russia's endemic problem of corruption and nepotism. The original intended budget was set as US$ 12 billion but the cost overruns were mainly due to the cozy relationship between the government and construction companies owned by the oligarchy. This sounds very familiar from a Jamaican perspective. But more on that later...!

Highlights

Opening Ceremony

The 2014 Winter Olympic Games were officially opened by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The glitzy opening ceremony consisted of a journey through Russian history seen through the eyes of a little girl called Lyubov (Russian for Love), accompanied by performances of Russian art, music and ballet.

  
Fireworks light up the night sky

To top it off, the opening ceremony was filled with an extravagant array of fireworks and interesting fashion. An estimated 3000 performers were said to have participated in pulling off a memorable opening ceremony.

Schindler’s List on Ice

Many of us have watched or heard of the classic WWII movie, Schindler’s List, and we were surprised to see a figure-skater using the theme song in her routine. What was even more surprising was this very figure-skater was only 15-years-old! Russia’s Julia Lipnitskaia danced up on a storm on the ice and won the gold medal in the Team Ladies Free Skating event

Talk about bringing a spectacular movie to life!

 It’s an Orange, Orange World, I tell ya!

The Dutch skaters were in menacing mood during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, performing a clean sweep of four separate speed skating events - the men’s 500m, 5000m and 10,000m and the women’s 1,500m.

To show the degree of their dominance on the ice, the Dutch won 23 out of a possible 36 medals and featuring on the podium in every skating event.

Family Values in Sochi

It was very much a family affair at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, with many competitors sharing family ties. Notable medal-winning family teams included a pair of Dutch speed skating twins (Michel and Ronald Mulder), Austrian brothers in the luge doubles (Andreas and Wolfgang Linger) and a trio of beautiful Canadian sisters in the freestyle skiing event (Justine, Chloe and Maxime Dufour-Lapointe).

Cool Runnings Part Deux?

It’s been twelve long years since Jamaica last competed at a winter-edition of the Olympic Games. They were back in action at the Games in Sochi and once more participating in the two man bobsled event. If a movie director wanted to make a Cool Runnings Part 2, now would have been a very good time.

Jamaica bobsled team in action

Just like the team in that memorable Disney movie, the two-man bobsled team of Winston Watts and Marvin Dixon failed to win a medal but they captured the hearts of everyone in Sochi. They were the undisputed life of the party, drawing massive crowds whenever they competed. Their popularity was also helped by having an infectious theme song called “The Bobsled Song”.

Start of the catchy Jamaica bobsled theme song

The Jamaican bobsled team even attained the enviable title of having been voted the most handsome competitors at the Games. Not bad for two jovial guys from a small dot on the map, eh?

Oh Canada!

Canada reigned supreme in Sochi, winning both men’s and women’s ice hockey events. The Canadian men’s team, having beaten the much touted Americans on their way, defeated a hapless Sweden 3-0 in the gold-medal match. The men’s team have now won a record nine Olympic medals in hockey.

Their women’s team were not to be outdone, edging the USA women’s team 3-2 in the final. The win gave the Canadian women’s team their fourth consecutive Olympic title.

After the dust (or should I say snow) had settled, the host nation, Russia, topped the medal standings with a total medal haul of 33 (13 gold, 11 silver and 9 bronze). The top ten was rounded out by Norway, Canada, United States, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Belarus, Austria and France.

Medal Table


Rank

Country

Gold

Silver

Bronze

Total

1

Russia

13

11

9

33

2

Norway

11

5

10

26

3

Canada

10

10

5

25

4

United States

9

7

12

28

5

The Netherlands

8

7

9

24

6

Germany

8

6

5

19

7

Switzerland

6

3

2

11

8

Belarus

5

0

1

6

9

Austria

4

8

5

17

10

France

4

4

7

15

 Sochi 2014 vs Moscow 2013

The recently held 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow were plagued with poor marketing and promotion and low spectator turnout. Viewership among Russians was also poor, with most viewers living in the Moscow region. According to some studies, the 2014 Winter Olympic Games was broadcasted around the world by 464 television channels and over 200 digital platforms (websites and apps). According to some studies, 93% of viewers in Russia’s big cities watched coverage of the Sochi Games. These findings are not surprising however, as the viewership of the Olympic Games/World Cup has always trounced that of a world championship of any sporting discipline.

Marketing for the 2013 Moscow World Championships was mainly concentrated in the Moscow region while the build-up and marketing ploys for the Sochi Games was phenomenal. A torch relay in space and through several big Russian cities, a fashion launch of the Russian national sporting gear, the issue of special postage stamps and the plastering of streets months before the start of the Games, were some of the things that ensured the local populace was pumped up and ready to support their country in their winter quest to conquer the world.
Threats and Security Scares

The staging of the 2014 Sochi Games didn’t occur without a hitch. Russia received a major scare leading up to the Sochi Games in the form of two major explosions in the industrial city of Volgograd, killing dozens in the process. There was no doubt that it was an act of terror and was claimed to be the work of extreme Islamists based in the nearby autonomous state of Dagestan, located in the Caucusus mountains not far from Sochi.

Organisers received several threats, stating that competing athletes would be kidnapped or blown up, if the Games were not called off. Fortunately, these threats were not carried out. There were also many Circassian protests objecting to the staging of the Games on land their ancestors once held. The Sochi Games were also plagued with LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) protests and campaigns in defiance of the 2013 passage of Russia’s LGBT propaganda law. Many activists were arrested, but were later released without charge.

Prospects for the 2018 World Cup of Football

The next major sporting event to be held in the Russian Federation will be the 2018 FIFA World Cup. This is the first time Russia will be holding the event and also the first time the World Cup will be held in Eastern Europe. The World Cup will be hosted in 13 cities and 16 stadiums, with 13 of these to be newly constructed. The Russian national team recently unveiled a new footballing kit in a glitzy event in Moscow. Major marketing and advertising haven’t been visible on the streets of Russia as yet, but from what I have learned from my time here in Sochi, one can expect a memorable and extravagant footballing festival in the summer of 2018!  

Dwayne Stephenson is a fourth year dental student, studying at Belgorod State University in the Russian Federation. He, along with his twin brother, is one of four Kingston College Old Boys currently studying in Russia. He attended KC from 1997-2004. While at KC, he was a member of the Tourism Action Club, and also served as a Senior Prefect and a member of the Students' Council.

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