Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics Preview


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Oct 2, 2013; Park City, UT, USA; Sochi 2014 press chief Mikhail Demin addresses the media at a press conference during the Team USA Media Summit at Canyons Grand Summit Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The last time our eyes were peeled on the Five Ring Circus that is the Olympics, it was two years ago in London, England. Michael Phelps padded his Olympic stats as the greatest swimmer in Olympic history, Usain Bolt once again broke his own records, the US Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball, and Women’s Soccer teams were successful in defending their gold medals, and the world said hello to Gabby Douglas.

Those were of the summer variety, of course. These games are of the winter variety, which means ice skating, bobsled, hockey, alpine skiing, and (everybody’s favorite)—curling.

The Olympic journey will soon take us to Sochi, Russia, a large resort city near the Black Sea. It was awarded the Winter Games in 2007, a year after Torino, Italy hosted its Winter Olympic programme.

Even with a plethora of huge names hoping to win gold in Sochi, these Games already have a huge Lindsay Vonn-shaped hole in the middle of them.

Recently, it was announced that Vonn will be sitting out these Games due to a knee injury. Surely, this had to make both fans of Team USA (as well as NBC brass) nervous because Vonn was, arguably, going to be the biggest draw of the Winter Games. In addition, her celebrity profile has only increased since she’s also now the beau of Tiger Woods. (Yawn)

Did we forget, though, that Lolo Jones is now bobsledding? Exactly. Lolo Jones, who is (unfairly) known by some for her shortcoming (and successes) when it comes to track events in Summer Olympic events, has made a strong case to be a part of Team USA’s bobsledding team. Originally, it was thought that when she announced that she would try her hand at the bobsleds that it was only a mere publicity stunt.

It was no publicity stunt. She apparently meant what she said, and she has made a real case for herself. After all, she did finish second at the bobsled World Cup. The rules do not say anything about Summer Olympic regulars not competing in Winter, so why not put Lolo Jones on the bobsled team?

We know the biggest Lolo Jones for USA Bobsledding 2014 campaign is coming straight from Kabletown (NBC).

Of course, hockey events will be a huge draw—and just as they did in Vancouver four years ago, NHL players will (thankfully) replace their Rangers, Blackhawks, Leafs, Flyers, etc. uniforms for those of their home countries.

Team Canada is coming into these Olympics as the defending gold medal winners after defeating Team USA in a classic Gold Medal Game. USA Hockey, which introduced its full roster during the Winter Classic between the Maple Leafs and Red Wings in Ann Arbor, has tapped Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane, Ryan Callahan, Jonathan Quick, and Ryan Miller among others to suit up for the Stars and Stripes in Russia. What stunned hockey aficionados was when the roster didn’t include Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators, who is an elite goal scorer.

Canada’s roster will, once again, be led by Sidney Crosby. It also includes Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Steven Stamkos, Patrice Bergeron, Rick Nash, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith. The notable omission from this team is Martin St. Louis.

Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Pavel Datsyuk are among the names to watch for the homestanding Russian squad.

On to the athlete whose name will be on everyone’s lips after the Games. Athens 2004 introduced us to Michael Phelps. Beijing 2008 introduced us to Shawn Johnson. London 2012 introduced us to Gabby Douglas and Missy Franklin. These look more and more like an Olympics taylor made for Mikaela Shiffrin to become a household name.

Such a brighter spotlight will, indeed, shine on Shiffrin among American Olympics fans now that Vonn is on the sidelines with the bum knee. She made history by becoming the youngest American skier in history to be a slalom World Cup champion. In fact, she’s even being touted as the next Lindsey Vonn.

One thing she has in common with Franklin—they’re both from Colorado. Given that the United States Olympic Committee is based in Colorado, Springs, its only appropriate that the Centennial State is well represented at the Games.

Once again, NBC will be the US network broadcasting all of the Olympic action. The Peacock is touting that Sochi 2014 will be the most covered Olympics in history as events will be shown on NBC, NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, CNBC, USA Network, and Telemundo (in Spanish).

Let’s just hope they don’t flub up this time what they did in London a couple of years ago. Honestly, 30 Rock. The BBC kicked your collective keisters in its backyard of London in 2012. The Beeb, by the way, is deploying its BBC Two television channel and its BBC Radio 5 channel for Sochi coverage.

In terms of media coverage, it’s also a return to the Five Ring Circus for Canada’s CBC. CBC was announced as the rights holder in Canada for the Olympics this year in Sochi as well as the Summer Games in Rio in 2016. The CBC also will sublicense events to Bell-owned TSN and TSN 2 and Rogers-owned SportsNet and SportsNet One. They’re planning over 1500 hours of coverage in both English and French.

As for Sochi 2014 itself, its indoor events will occur at a newly constructed Olympic park near the coast of the Black Sea (including the Fisht Olympic Stadium, where the Opening and Closing Ceremonies will take place) as well as snow and alpline events in the mountains of Krasnaya Polyana. Twelve new events will also be added to the Winter Olympic programme that did not exist previously, making Sochi 2014 the largest Winter Olympics to date.

These Olympics are not without its share of controversy since terror attacks that have recently occurred near Sochi  have deemed the games as a travel hazard and a security threat. Also, Russia’s anti-gay laws have received outrage from many, and will lead a lot of people to boycott the Olympics as well as any television coverage of Sochi 2014. Several international leaders will not be in attendance at the Games, including Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama, in what is seen as a symbolic protest against the anti-gay laws of Russia. Such laws also made many prospective advertisers weary of having anything to do with Sochi’s Games.

In Vancouver, the United States won the most overall medals with 37 while Canada did not disappoint its home citizenry by racking up the most gold medals with 14 out of their 26 overall.

Let the Games begin! We’re only four weeks and counting before the Olympic cauldron is lit in Russia. Really? Three weeks? Didn’t we just get done with Vancouver?