Sochi Winter Olympics begin today

The 2014 Winter Olympics are being held in Sochi, Russia, February 7 – 23, 2014. Sochi is a city in Krasnodar Krai, Russia, located on the north-east coast of the Black Sea near the Georgia/Abkhazia border and Russia. The Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games will be held March 7-16, 2014.

(Pssst…don’t forget to check out Getting Ready for the Olympics with Feats of Endurance and From Russia With the Library.)

This is the 22nd observance of the Winter Olympiad. The first Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France in 1924, and the original sports were alpine and cross country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic combined, ski jumping, and speed skating.

There have been no demonstration sports at the Winter Olympics since 1992 in Albertville, France, when freestyle skiing (aerials and ski ballet), speed skiing, and curling were demonstration sports (curling also having been a demonstration sport in Calgary in 1988). But the drought of demo sports is over and there will be one this year in Sochi: synchronized skating!

Yes, synchronized skating, or “synchro,” is a large and fast-growing discipline of figure skating where eight or more skaters participate as a team, moving as one flowing unit on the ice at high speeds. Click for a three-page PDF primer of Synchronized Skating Required Elements produced by the U.S. Figure Skating Association. Click for more information on Skate Canada’s SynchroSkate program

The following are the events of the XXII Winter Olympiad (events in purple are new in 2014 and will mark their Olympic debut at Sochi): 

alpine skiing (men’s & women’s downhill, super G, giant slalom, slalom, and combined);

biathlon, involving skiing and shooting, with time or distance penalties for missed targets (men’s & women’s individual race, sprint, pursuit, mass start race, relay, and mixed relay);

bobsleigh (four-man race, two-man race, and two-woman race);

cross country skiing (men’s & women’s individual and team sprint, pursuit, and relays);

curling (men’s & women’s tournaments);

figure skating (men’s & women’s singles, pairs, ice dancing, and the team event);

freestyle skiing (men’s & women’s moguls, aerials, ski cross, superpipe, and slopestyle);

ice hockey (men’s & women’s tournaments);

luge (men’s &  women’s singles, men’s doubles, and mixed team relay);

Nordic combined, combining cross country skiing and ski jumping (men’s 10 km individual normal hill, men’s 10 km individual large hill, and men’s team);

short track speed skating (men’s & women’s individual and relay);

skeleton (men’s and women’s events);

ski jumping (men’s individual large hill, team large hill, men’s & women’s individual normal hill*);

snowboarding (men’s & women’s parallel slalom, giant slalom, halfpipe, snowboard cross, and slopestyle); and

speed skating (men’s & women’s individual and team pursuit).
*2014 marks the first time that women will compete in ski jumping at the Winter Games.

The following are the events of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games:

gsjaudet2alpine skiing;

biathlon;

cross country skiing

ice sledge hockey; and

wheelchair curling.

Above is Canada’s Sonja Gaudet, winner of two paralympic gold medals in wheelchair curling.

A bit of Winter Olympic Trivia:

• Norway has won more gold medals at the Winter Games than any other country.

• The Winter and Summer Olympic Games were held in the same years until 1992, after a 1986 decision by the IOC to have the Summer and Winter Games move to separate four-year cycles in alternating even-numbered years. Because of this, the 1994 games were the next Winter Olympics after 1992.

• The Winter Olympics have never been hosted by a country in the southern hemisphere. 

• Some Winter Olympic demonstration sports that never made it include: ski ballet (now known as acroski); skijoring (a person on skis is pulled by a horse, a dog(s) or a motor vehicle); speed skiing; military patrol (includes cross country skiing, rifle shooting, and ski mountaineering usually performed by military units which had to include one officer, one non-commissioned officer and two privates); and bandy (a cross between ice hockey and soccer). 

• Six countries are participating in the Winter Olympics for the first time: East Timor (men’s slalom); Malta (women’s alpine skiing); Paraguay (women’s freestyle skiing); Togo (women’s slalom in alpine skiing and women’s 10 km classical event in cross country skiing); Tonga (men’s singles luge); and Zimbabwe (men’s giant slalom and men’s slalom).

Pyeongchang, South Korea will host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

• The 2022 Olympic Winter Games will go to one of Almaty, Kazakhstan; Beijing, China; Krakow, Poland; Lviv, Ukraine; or Oslo, Norway.

Click to learn about the Official Sochi 2014 Canadian Olympic Team and the Official Sochi 2014 Canadian Paralympic Team. You can see the event schedules and follow the results by clicking the following links for the Olympic and Paralympic games. You can also download the Sochi 2014 mobile apps here.

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