Sochi: Opening Ceremony

It’s time. The Summer Olympics' less-popular younger sibling, the Winter Olympics, has arrived. As you know, 2014 takes us to Sochi, Russia, for the games. If I’m being completely honest, I’m not all that invested. I do, however, like to be what I refer to as ‘cocktail-party competent’ when it comes to current events. Before the media blitz, if you would have asked me what Sochi was, I would have narrowed it down to Icelandic pop star or Pacific Rim hot sauce. As it is, the only thing I really hear about Sochi is that it’s a snowless, mob-controlled wasteland where a terrorist attack not only is suspected, but apparently imminent. So let’s set the yellow journalism aside and find out some actual facts about these 2014 Winter Games.

First of all, let’s get the pronunciation out of the way; let’s not have a replay of the Nag'ano/Naga'no debacle. As far as mid-sized Russian cities go, this one is easy (so'chee). Sochi is a large resort city on the Black Sea. This time of year, the temperature hovers around the mid-40s. Alpine and Nordic events are to be held at a nearby ski resort. It’s 10 hours ahead of Central Standard Time; oh, and it’s beautiful—really beautiful.

Controversy surrounds these Olympics on many fronts. First of all, Russia is not, shall we say, gay-friendly; and a recently enacted federal law banning distribution of homosexual propaganda to minors calls attention to that discrimination. On a side note, I’m not completely sure what ‘homosexual propaganda’ is—I wasn't aware there was recruiting going on, but it’s an incendiary subject prompting outrage, boycotts and much-needed diplomacy. The other major source of concern is a terrorist attack, the fear coming mainly from the proximity of unstable Chechnya. Sochi itself is a predominantly Christian city with a small, peaceful Muslim presence.

On a lighter note, the government and private sector seem to be wrapping up construction on this most expensive Olympics in history. While the weather is not typical for a winter Olympics—Sochi could just as easily host a Summer Olympics—the conditions reportedly are very good for all events. So politics, geography and controversy aside, now we can actually focus on the athletes. Let the games begin!

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