Every four years, we feign interest in funny-sounding cold-weather sports such as skeleton and luge and biathlon, and that makes the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, a hot water-cooler topic that will push Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead to the back burner. And, thanks to an influence of X Games stars and snowy sports tailored to their strengths, expect to hear cheers of USA! USA! USA! at venues that stretch from the shores of the Black Sea to the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains. The opening ceremony of the 22nd edition of the Winter Olympics is Friday and the closing ceremony is Feb. 23. In between, there’s a whole lot of luging going on, so ... Poehali! (That’s Russian for Let’s go!)
“The most important thing is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” Olympic creed
Athletes from 85 countries competing in 89 events during the 18 days of competition, including 12 new events.
3Dallas Stars will compete for their countries in Sochi: forward Jamie Benn for Canada, goaltender Kari Lehtonen for Finland and rookie forward Valeri Nichushkin for Russia. Stars coach Lindy Ruff will be there, serving as an assistant for Team Canada. Also keep an eye on these North Texans: Jordan Malone of Denton in short-track speedskating and Austin McCrary of Colleyville in bobsled and skeleton.
200+Record number of U.S. athletes set to compete with hopes of overtaking Canada in the gold-medal count. Team USA led the world with 37 total medals in the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Cubic meters of snow stockpiled to ensure plenty of the white stuff on the slopes.
185Prime-time hours devoted by NBC to the Winter Games, which started Thursday — one night before the opening ceremony. The six NBCUniversal platforms (NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, MSNBC, USA Network and NBCOlympics.com) will combine to offer more than 1,500 hours of coverage — more than Vancouver and Turin combined.
10thTime Bob Costas will host the prime-time and late-night studio shows. That’s a U.S. television first.
3Mascots: The Leopard, The Polar Bear and The Hare. (Snowflake and Ray Of Sunshine are the mascots for the Paralympics.)
45Minutes to travel from the Olympic Park coastal cluster in Sochi to the mountain cluster of Krasnaya Polyana. It’s a much more compact layout than the last two Winter Games in Vancouver and Turin.
To build a winter resort in the warmest part of Russia.
47ºThe average temperature in Sochi, making it the warmest Winter Olympics host city on record.
2Official outfitters for the U.S. Olympic team: Ralph Lauren and Nike.
Medals manufactured for the Winter Games. This includes the “cosmic medals” embedded with meteorite fragments from the explosion over Chelyabinsk in 2013. On Feb. 15 — the one-year anniversary of the meteorite’s fall to Earth, the athletes who win a gold medal that day will be awarded the special medals. Those in the running: men’s 1,500 speedskating, women’s 1,000-meter and men’s 1,500-meter short track, women’s cross-country skiing relay, men’s K-125 ski jump, women’s super giant slalom and men’s skeleton.
410Cossacks in traditional regalia — coats with epaulettes, fur hats and swords — will be part of the security detail for the Winter Games. They’ll provide the foot patrols.
Gallons of borscht, a traditional Ukrainian soup made from beets, expected to be served during the Winter Games.