Tahlequah Daily Press

January 31, 2014

Interest in Winter Olympics focuses on faves

By SEAN ROWLEY
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Accompanied by anticipation and some controversy, the XXII Winter Olympiad gets under way during the first week of February in Sochi, Russia.

Though the winter games are followed less than the Summer Olympics, and enjoy greater popularity in colder regions, there is some local notice of the upcoming event.

Young men often expressed an interest in the snowboarding competition. That includes Jarrod Woods, 24, and Scott Roberts, 23, though they said they also found other disciplines worth watching.

“I also like hockey,” Woods said. “I am kind of curious to see how the different nations will do.”

Roberts mentioned curling - asking “have you seen their uniforms?” - speed skating and biathlon.

“The skiing and shooting in the biathlon is awesome,” he said. “It’s like the James Bond event.”

Women frequently mentioned figure skating as a favorite event, and a fun facet of any Olympics is the storylines - such as athletes representing countries with very little snow and ice. The Jamaican bobsled team is a memorable example.

In the Sochi games, Peter Crook will compete in the halfpipe for the British Virgin Islands; Dow Travers and Jasmine Campbell will slalom for the Cayman Islands and Virgin Islands, respectively; and Jamaican bobsledding has qualified after a 12-year absence with the two-man team of Winston Watt and Marvin Dixon.

David-and-Goliath stories also capture public attention. The 1980 games at Lake Placid, N.Y., are remembered by Americans for the “Miracle on Ice” in which the U.S. hockey team defeated the Soviet Union en route to gold. But in the tiny European principality of Liechtenstein, population 36,000, the games are remembered for Hanni Wenzel’s two gold medals in slalom - Liechtenstein’s only golds ever.

Competitions begin on Feb. 6, with the opening ceremony on Feb. 7. The closing ceremony is Feb. 23.

NBC will carry the games. The network signed a $4.38 billion contract to air all Olympiads from 2014-20.

The 2014 Winter Olympic games include 98 events across 15 disciplines in seven sports. The disciplines are Alpine skiing, cross country skiing, freestyle skiing, biathlon, bobsled, curling, hockey, luge, Nordic combined, skeleton, ski jumping, snowboarding, figure skating, speed skating and short track speed skating.

The weeks leading to the Winter Olympics have seen some controversy. Russia has imposed on the games a ban on “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” aimed at non-heterosexuals. Accusations of corruption among organizers of the games have arisen due to acute budget overruns - larger than the previous 21 Winter Olympics combined.

There are also questions about violence possibly perpetrated by militant Islamic groups and the wisdom of holding the Olympics in Sochi. The town sits against the restive Caucasus, where Russia has fought two civil wars in Chechnya, and is just 23 miles from the border of Abkhazia, a territory seized by Russia from the Republic of Georgia in the 2008 South Ossetia War.

Sochi is a Black Sea resort town in one of the warmest regions of Russia, and snow will be transported to the games. Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised “the safest Olympics in history,” and suspicion exists that Russia sees the games as an opportunity to demonstrate its sovereignty in the region.

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

To read an online exclusive about the results of an informal Daily Press poll asking readers to name their favorite Winter Olympic events, go to www.tahlequahtdp.com.

srowley@tahlequahdailypress.com