Gearing up for the 2014 Winter Olympics

Callie Struby, Reporter

2014 is becoming a big year for the Olympics. Not only is it another Winter Olympic Games but these particular games have drawn quite a bit of attention.

One of the biggest arguments stems from the location of the games this year. Having the games in Sochi, Russia is great because this will be the first Olympics held in the Russian Federation since the breakup of the USSR about 23 years ago. However the location poses some serious questions as well. Federal Russian laws passed on June 29, 2013 banned “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations”. To be clear, however, homosexuality is legal in Russia but same-sex marriage and adoption of children by same-sex couples is not.  The most controversial part of the ban is the lack of freedom of expression.

The ban has drawn protests and objections from around the world. Although President Putin has promised that the Olympics will be free of discrimination, many gay rights organizations called for a boycott of the games. Athletes have denounced the Russian government for the ban. However, most are in agreement that a boycott of the Olympics is not the right solution to the problem. They feel as though it is unfair to the athletes who have been preparing for the games.

Further, there is new controversy surrounding the USA Women’s Figure Skating Team. This started at the 2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships where figure skater Ashley Wagner was chosen to compete over Mirai Nagasu, despite Nagasu’s higher placement than Wagner at the championship. Wagner was chosen to compete along with Gracie Gold and Polina Edmunds, despite her fourth place finish. She was choose based on her overall credentials for this season, according to The Wall Street Journal. While enthusiasts are baffled by the choice, others are thrilled that Wagner will get her chance to compete.

Finally, the climate of Sochi has come into play at these Olympics. Sochi is a subtropical climate, and temperatures in the winter are regularly in the 50s. Chief Meteorologist for KOCO 5 Damon Lane gave the Marionette an exclusive look at how weather and climatology ties into Winter Olympics and the preparation. Meteorologists are involved every step of the way, from choosing the location to ensuring ideal conditions for athletes.

Lane also shed some light on some of the challenges that meteorologists for the Olympic team have encountered with this year’s Olympic games.

“The biggest concern is will there be snow? Sochi is the Miami of Russia in that it is a summer tourism spot that Putin wants to promote.”

According to Lane, last year Sochi stored 450,000 tons of snow in holding facilities in preparation for the games. However around Christmas the temperatures were in the 70s, and much of the snowpack was depleted. Man-made snow has been brought in to restore the snow pack, but man-made snow could pose some challenges to the athletes just as temperatures can.

The ideal temperature for skiers to ski in is -3 degrees C/25 degrees F because this is where ski wax preforms best. Skiers thus face challenges because as temperatures change the athletes much also change the type of ski wax. However varying temperatures are not the only thing that athletes have to worry about.

“The bobsled team does not care much about temperature since the track can be cooled. They care more about humidity. The more humid it is the stickier the track is with moisture build up. Each sport has weather challenges making a meteorologist very important,” Lane said.

On the brighter side of things, Jamaica is again surprising Olympics fanatics everywhere with a bobsledding duo that qualified to attend the Olympics. While the team was stranded financially at first, after their story broke, donations started pouring in online. On January 20, the Sochi organizing committee formally offered the Jamaicans a spot in the event, and they accepted.

The 2014 Winter Olympics bring something extra special with the addition of new events. Joining favorites like skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, speed skating, and snowboarding, are eight new events. The newcomers include things like Women’s Ski Jump, Men and Women’s Ski Halfpipe, and Men and Women’s Slopestyle Snowboard.

The venues are set, the medals have been unveiled, the Olympic torch has been to space and back, and it seems as though things are really starting to come together for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. The games will begin Friday, February 7 and end Sunday, February 23.