February 7th marked the beginning of the Winter Olympics, which are taking place in Sochi, Russia. The addition of new events, an extravagant opening ceremony and even reports of dirty living conditions for athletes and reporters make this Olympics a highly newsworthy event. Behind the podium coverage and most important facts:
- It’s cold? — Sochi is located in a resort town of Russia known as the Russian Riviera, where temperatures seldom drop below 53° F. Many events are taking place in the mountain resort of Krasnaya Polyana. Snow machines have been imported from Finland in case warm weather occurs.
- $$$ — Russia has spent more money on the 2014 Winter Olympics than any hosting country has before – a hefty 51 billion dollars! Where has all the money gone? Allegations of political corruption have risen – Arkady Rotenburg, friend of President Vladimir Putin, pocketed 7 billion dollars for his work towards the Olympics. Similar amounts of money were given to Russian officials alledgedly as bribery. The Bolshoy Ice Dome, built especially for the games and opened in 2012, cost 300 million dollars – an amount almost 2.5 times as much as originally planned. Additionally, all Russian athletes winning a gold medal will be awarded $122, 000.
- A possible comeback for Russia — President Vladimir Putin predicts that the spotlight on Russia will put it back on the map. After decades of political instability and declining tourism, some still negatively associate the place with the Cold War. The Winter Olympics – or as some say, “Putin’s Games” – are expected to showcase the improved Russia.
- But still, Russia has recently been stacked with controversies – from gay rights’ issues to mistreatment of the construction laborers who built the new stadiums. In July, President Vladimir Putin issued a law banning all pro-gay “propaganda”, or commercials, and for seven months, gay rights activists have pushed for equal rights with little advancement. On Friday, an open letter was sent to the 10 biggest Olympic sponsors urging them to support equal rights through advertising, despite Russian laws.
- New events — Women’s ski jumping will be a new event added to this year’s Winter Olympics. In the past, the International Olympic Committee cited the insufficient number of elite women ski jumpers but critics proposed that information was outdated. Women will still not jump in a team event or from the largest hill during the Olympics. Women’s ski jumping is not the only new event that will be competing in Sochi – Biathlon Mixed Relay, Mixed Figure Skating Team Event, Mixed Luge Team Relay, Men’s and Women’s: Ski Halfpipe, Ski Slopestyle, Snowboard Slopestyle, and Snowboard Parallel Slalom will also be introduced.
[HIGHLIGHTS]: Canada, Norway and the Netherlands are tied for the most medals – 7. Currently the United States is fourth, behind Russia, with 5 medals. Russia’s 15 year old rising star Julia Lipnitskaia won 1st place in Women’s Figure Skating, the youngest athlete to win a gold medal at a Winter Olympics.