Let the Games Begin!

Photos: Kari Gilje & Mike Chiu Kari Gilje and her family enjoy the Olympic experience at the cross country ski venue in Whistler, BC.

Photos: Kari Gilje & Mike Chiu Kari Gilje and her family enjoy the Olympic experience at the cross country ski venue in Whistler, BC.

The 22nd Winter Olympics are underway in Sochi

Denise Leland
Norwegian American Weekly

As the opening ceremonies kicked off on Feb. 7th, the world is now turning its attention to Sochi. Thanks to the ease of internet technology, you can watch any and all events online, even as they are actually happening in Sochi. This is pretty amazing, and also a dangerous way to get completely lost in a marathon of Winter Games events.

These 22nd Winter Games are certainly unlike any other before. Aside from the Sochi Games introducing 12 new Olympic events, these games are the Winter debut for seven nations: Dominica, East Timor, Malta, Paraguay, Togo, Tonga, and Zimbabwe. While the USA and Norway are so used to sending huge or dominant teams to the Olympics, most of these new nations are sending only one athlete to represent their nation and surely be seen as a national hero. If you watched the Opening Ceremonies, it was clear to see the beaming pride from these sole flag-bearers, of which there were 18 nations total.

On the other end of the spectrum, team USA was the largest in Winter Games history with a total of 230 athletes represented. Slightly smaller but full of power, Norway has 118 athletes competing in Sochi this year, up from 99 athletes in Vancouver 2010.

For Norway, the flag-bearer was none other than the Nordic skiing star Aksel Lund Svindal. The U.S. team voted six-time Olympic veteran Todd Lodwick to carry in the stars and stripes. Lodwick suffered a serious shoulder injury in a ski-jumping accident in December but was still adamant about carrying the flag into Fisht Stadium. Lodwick is an athlete in the Nordic combined and is the first American to compete in six Winter Games

There is no denying that Norway has a strong history of dominating at the Winter Olympics. With 303 total winter medals, 107 of which are gold, Norway has won and made the podium at the Winter Games more than any other nation in history. In fact, there are only nine nations in the world that have won more total medals at Winter Olympics than Norway has won gold. This is a fun fact that never seems to disappoint in inspiring awe.

Another way that these Sochi Winter Games are making history is with the longest Olympic torch relay in history. The torch covered 39,000 miles, leaving Moscow on Oct.7 and arriving in Sochi on Feb. 7. From the North Pole to space, and the highest mountain in Europe to the world’s deepest lake, this torch made a journey for the books.

Carrying the torch into the 40,000-capacity Fisht Stadium was Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova, who then handed the flame off to two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva. She then passed the torch to the colossal three-time Olympic champion wrestler Alexander Karelin. All torch-bearers in tow, Karelin gave the torch to Olympic champion gymnast (and Putin’s girlfriend) Alina Kabayeva who brought the torch to its final bearers, Olympic hockey legend Vladislav Tretyak and then figure skater Irina Rodnina. The two jogged the torch out of the stadium to ignite the flame monument and officially signal the start of the Winter Games.

As the media has so aptly covered since Feb. 7, there were some technical errors in the Opening Ceremonies, most notably the failure of the expansion of the fifth ring from its snowflake shape. While this is sure to become the bud of many jokes for a good while, this mechanical error of the famous Olympic symbol was not the end of the world. The rest of the Opening Ceremonies were quite beautiful, including the artful reimagining of the history of Russia. Overall, it was a good show and certainly welcomed in the Olympic spirit for all, both present and watching on TV, computer, and phone screens worldwide.

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 14, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.