Sochi Olympics, The largest and most expensive Winter Olympic Games in history likely will be remembered for palm trees, reminders of Cold War tensions between the United States and Russia and high-flying flips in new events that offer X Games thrills.
Much is at stake for Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has made these Olympics his baby. From the outset, Putin has been heavily involved, from lobbying the International Olympic Committee to bring the Games to Russia to inspecting construction sites, testing the facilities and meeting with athletes arriving this week. Putin said he hopes hosting such a large-scale event gives the world “a better feel of today’s Russia.”
Spectators ” near and far ” will get their first glimpse of that vision during Friday’s Opening Ceremony.
The medal count race could be intriguing. Without injured skiing star Lindsey Vonn and with speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno in retirement, the U.S. team will have to stretch to finish atop the overall medal count as it did at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, when it won a whopping 37 medals. It was the first time the Americans claimed the overall medal count in the Winter Games since 1932 in Lake Placid.
The U.S. Olympic Committee doesn’t offer a medal projection, but “we come in these Games in a really good place,” said Alan Ashley, the USOC’s chief of sport performance.
With 12 new events, the Sochi Games will be the largest in history. USA TODAY Sports projects the U.S. will win 40 medals, two fewer than Norway. The U.S. team has strong medal chances in several new events, including slopestyle skiing and snowboarding, halfpipe skiing and women’s ski jumping. Plus the Americans are contenders in sports that formerly have been an afterthought, most notably in cross country skiing, behind gold medal favorite Kikkan Randall of Alaska.
Skiing history in a subtropical Olympics? Why not?