Winter Olympics

On February 7, the opening ceremony for the 22nd Winter Olympic Games was held in Sochi, Russia. It was a beautiful ceremony which showed Russia’s history and honored many of its famous citizens. Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the Games.

The Olympic torch for these Games was carried by 14,000 people covering approximately 65,000 km (40,000 miles) over 123 days. The torch made it to the North Pole, the top of Mount Elbrus, the bottom of Lake Baikal, and even made a trip to the International Space Station (ISS). A couple of astronauts took it out for a space walk, making it the first Olympic torch to be out in space. You can watch the torch relay here.

There are over 2,800 athletes from 88 different nations participating in the Games. United States, Russia, and Canada are the countries with the largest teams (with over 200 athletes). There are a few countries with only one athlete (Pakistan, Paraguay, Malta,  Mexico, and some others). The athlete from Mexico, at 55 years of age, is the oldest participant at these Games.

The Games have 98 events in 15 different winter sports that are on either ice or snow. Some sports have names that don’t make it obvious what the sport is about. Some examples are Nordic combined (a sport involving ski jumping and cross-country skiing), biathlon (a sport involving cross-country skiing and rifle shooting), skeleton (sledding while lying face down), and luge (sledding while lying face up).

These Games are the most expensive Olympics ever hosted. The cost is about US$50 billion. The Olympic Park was built from scratch. Sochi is a city on the Black Sea coast. The mountains near the city are used for some of the events. The mascots for the Games are a polar bear, a snow hare, and a snow leopard. Like some of the past Olympics, smoking is not allowed during the Games. You can see a total medal count according to countries here. The closing ceremony for the Games will be held on February 23, and then you’ll have to wait another four years for the next Winter Games which will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The first Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France in 1924. They were held every four years and were always in the same year as the Summer Olympics. In 1992, the Winter and Summer Olympic Games were separated by 2 years. Here is a video showing some great moments from the past Winter Games.

Did you know?

Oscar Swahn, a Swedish shooter, was the oldest athlete ever to compete in the Olympics. He was 72 years old when he competed in the 1920 Olympic Games.

Image Credits: sochi2014.com for all the Olympic images
Sources: http://espn.go.com/, http://edition.cnn.com, http://torchrelay.sochi2014.com/, http://www.olympic.org/, http://www.sochi2014.com/