Now the hype of the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games are over we can switch our focus towards the Winter Olympic Games which head to Russia for the first time in 2014. Today marks the 500-days-to-go milestone on the road to Sochi. The Black Sea coastal city is preparing to welcome 5,500 Winter Olympic athletes including a contingent of New Zealand winter athletes in February 2014.
New Zealand Winter Olympic Team
New Zealand hopes to send its most successful Olympic Winter Games since Albertville in 1992. In 1992 New Zealand won its first and only winter Olympic medal. Silver was won by Annaliesa Coberger in Alpine Skiing. In 2010 New Zealand sent a team of 12 athletes.
For New Zealand the Sochi program boosted by the addition of ski and snowboard slopestyle events in 2014. It was welcome news for New Zealand, kiwi athletes such as Jossi Wells (who won silver in the 2008 and 2010 X-Games in ski slopestyle and a bronze medal in the Big Air competition at the X Games in 2012) and his brother Byron in the Ski Halfpipe (who came in 3rd Place Dew Tour Snowbasin 2011, 3rd European Open 2011, 5th World Champs), together with Snowboard Slopestyle athletes Shelley Gollieb, Rebecca Torr and Stefi Luxton who have been making their mark in these sports internationally. New Zealand has depth in these new disciplines which significantly strengthens the chances of medals in Sochi 2014.
Other rising stars include Ben Sandford who won a bronze in the 2012 Skeleton at the World Championships who show New Zealands medal and top ten finishing potential in Sochi 2014.
As Sochi organisers strive to deliver the Olympic venues, New Zealand athletes are vying for selection and qualification onto the 2014 New Zealand Olympic Winter Team. Selections for the team are likely to made towards the end of 2013.
Sochi Preparation and Planning
Sochi will cater for 5,500 Olympic athletes, 25,000 volunteers, and 13,000 members of the press. 75,000 people are expected to visit Olympic Park daily with a global audience of approximately 3 billion watching on television.
The Games designed to be the most compact Winter Games in the history of the Olympic Movement features two venue clusters 48km apart (or less than 30 minutes on the new railway). The majority of venues have been built from scratch, with a Village located in each cluster.
The Coastal Cluster (Sochi Olympic Park) is located on the Black Sea coast and features all new venues including an Ice Dome Bolshoy for ice hockey, a secondary ice hockey venue Shayba, the Ice Cube curling centre, Iceberg skating palace, a speed skating arena and "Fisht"- the Olympic Stadium which hosts the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and doubles as the Medal Plaza.
The Mountain Cluster has the Rosa Khutor. which hosts two prime venues- the Alpine Centre and Extreme Park where New Zealanders will have plenty to cheer about in the aerials, moguls, boardercross and halfpipe events. The RusSki Gorki ski jumping centre, Sanki sliding centre (bobsleigh, luge, skeleton) and Laura cross country ski and biathlon centre are also situated in the mountain cluster.