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Thursday, February 6, 2014

THE 2014 WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES HAVE BEGUN


Sochi, Russia, a resort city with a population of 343,000, is hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics.  How do you pronounce SOCHI?  Kind of reminds me of the movie Her...but...


Click on it.  This is how the previous president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge (left), announces the city.  Mind you, he's Belgian.  In case you don't keep up with these things, Thomas Bach of Germany just became their new leader.


The previous Olympics in the country were the summer games of 1980, boycotted by the USA and some allies because, of all the things, Russia had invaded Afghanistan.  A popular joke of the day was:

"At the 1980 Olympics, Brezhnev begins his speech: "O!"-applause. "O!"-more applause. "O!"-yet more applause. "O!"-an ovation. "O!!!"-the whole audience stands up and applauds. An aide comes running to the podium and whispers, "Leonid Ilyich, those are the Olympic logo rings, you don't need to read them!"

General Secretary Brezhnev was, like President Reagan, perhaps in an early stage of dementia, so this was actually quite cruel.  No similar jokes with President Vladimir Putin thus far.

These games are again controversial:
Why did it cost so much?  Some say typical Putin corruption, while many blame the idiocy of choosing a subtropical beach with palm trees where the average winter temperature is 52 F.  Note those snow-topped mountains (the city of Sochi is actually ninety miles long, and guess in which direction), but in addition to snow machines, they actually have been collecting and storing snow from previous winters.

There will be around 3500 Olympians from 87 (or, maybe 88) countries.  The USA, with 237 participants, is the favorite to win the most medals, and should exceed the 37 of 2010, although the Norwegians should garner the most golds.  Canada, Russia and Germany will also be formidable.  Lack of snow notwithstanding, you might call this the White Olympics (as all winter games are) because, aside from the skaters from the Orient, almost everyone else will be Caucasian.  They won't win the gold, but the Norwegian curling team, pictured here, is most famous for what it wears.

There will be 98 (or 100) events in 15 disciplines, with 1300 medals to be awarded.  The gold medal will weigh a little more than a pound and is worth $566, less than the $708 value of the London gold medal, but that is because the price of gold has fallen since then.  If the Sochi gold were pure gold (1912 was the last Olympics providing this), the worth would be $21,478.  The silver medal is estimated at $323 and bronze at $3.25.

Not quite sure how many tourists will make it to Sochi, but here is one guide (many tips from Yakov Smirnoff) for visitors, like, don't bring your dog but do bring drinking water.  Planners were worried about empty arenas, so special precautions are being taken to fill those seats.  Opening ceremonies are not until tomorrow, but the Sochi Games have begun, and, apparently, the word has not gone out to locals and volunteers, for here is a photo from one of the events today:


Of course, most of us will watch the Olympics on TV, and there has already been a devastating injury today to a female USA mogul competitor.  NBC and its affiliates (NBC Sports Network, MNNBC and CNBC) will provide full coverage.

There will be 650 hours of HD, culminating with the Closing Ceremony on Sunday, February 23, the day, also, of the Men's gold medal ice hockey match.  For most, this all begins tomorrow with the Opening Ceremonies.  Synchronize your watches, for when it is 3PM in Sochi, it is 8PM in Tokyo, 6AM in New York City and 1AM in Honolulu.  NBC will save viewers the trouble of channel jumping during the wee small hours through their evening summary.

Tomorrow:  what to watch on TV, a few more Russian jokes, an expose about stray dogs and an inside story about the three Sochi mascots (How many remember Wenlock and Mandeville  from London?).


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