The countdown to Sochi 2014 has officially begun, with only a few weeks until the start of the Winter Olympics. Before the Games kick off in early February, we're helping you prepare for all the sporting festivities with a short guide to the who, what, when, and where of the Games. With answers to the questions you're probably afraid to ask — like where, exactly, Sochi may be — to when you should set your DVR, take a look at our quick rundown of what to expect for this year's Winter Olympic Games.
Where will the Winter Olympics take place?
The 2014 Games will be hosted by Sochi, Russia, a resort city that sits on the Black Sea. Sports venues are set up in two different areas of the city. The ice events will take place closer to the coast, while the skiing and sliding events will play out in the nearby Krasnaya Polyana Mountains. Sochi's Games mark Russia's first time hosting the Winter Olympics, but the former USSR hosted the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow. And just how much will this year's hosting gig cost? An estimated $50 billion.
When do the Games start?
The opening ceremonies will kick off Feb. 7 at 8:14 p.m. local time, and the Games will finish up on Feb. 23. Next up will be the Paralympics, which will run from March 7 to March 16.
What time should I set my DVR for the opening ceremony?
Sochi is nine hours ahead of NYC, so the opening ceremony will start at 11 a.m. EST. Viewers won’t be able to watch right away, though, because NBC is not airing the opening ceremony live. Instead, the network will broadcast the event eight-and-a-half hours later at 7:30 p.m. EST.
What about the other must-see events? When can I watch?
The opening ceremony marks a bit of an exception, as NBC will air most of the high-profile events live, then repackage them to replay the highlights later. To see which events will air locally, check out NBC's listings page. Here are a few moments you may want to set on your DVR now:
- Ladies' Short Program Figure Skating on Saturday, Feb. 8, at 11:10 a.m. EST
- Men's Ice Hockey: USA vs. Russia on Saturday, Feb. 15, at 7:30 a.m. EST
Which stories should I look out for?
From figure-skating drama to the possibility of a Jamaican bobsled team, this year's Winter Olympics promise to feature plenty of fascinating stories. There are several athletes to look out for, and although Lindsey Vonn's knee injury forced her to opt out of the Games, 18-year-old US skier Mikaela Shiffrin is poised to be one of this year's Olympic darlings. Meanwhile, track and field star Lolo Jones has taken up bobsledding to possibly join Team USA after she didn't receive a medal during the 2012 Summer Olympics.
What's up with the Olympic torch?
This year, the Olympic torch is set to travel nearly 25,000 miles across 123 days, and for the first time ever, it's even traveled to space! On Nov. 7, a rocket brought the torch all the way to the International Space Station, and two days later, Russian astronauts participated in the first spacewalk of the Olympic torch.
How many sports are involved?
Six thousand athletes from across the globe — 85 countries, to be exact — will be competing in 15 different sports for the Olympics, including 89 separate events. Then 1,650 Paralympians will participate in the Paralympic Games the following month.
Who are the Team USA superstars?
- Shaun White, Snowboarding: With two gold medals for the half-pipe under his belt, White is one of the biggest names in the sport.
- Gracie Gold, Figure Skating: With Michelle Kwan's coach, Frank Carroll, and big success at nationals, Gold is definitely one to watch.
- Ted Ligety, Alpine Skiing: After winning three golds at the 2013 World Championships, Ligety proved he's ready for Sochi.
- Sarah Hendrickson, Ski Jumping: Hendrickson is the current world champion in her sport, and this marks the first year ski jumping is part of the Olympics, so she's poised to be the first winner of the event.
- Bode Miller, Alpine Skiing: The five-time Olympic medalist had surgery on his knee last Spring, then opted out of the World Cup season to rest up for the Games.
- Lindsey Van, Ski Jumping: After years of pushing for ski jumping to be an Olympic sport, she'll be competing in the event in Sochi with 15 US Championship titles to her name.
- Kelly Clark, Snowboarding: Sochi marks her fourth time competing in the Winter Games, and Clark already has gold and bronze Olympic medals.
- Nick Goepper, Freestyle Skiing: He was the first American to qualify for Sochi, and in 2013, he took home the gold at X Games Aspen.
- Julia Mancuso, Alpine Skiing: She has eight major championship medals to her name, more than any other American woman.
- Heather Richardson, Speed Skating: Since competing in the 2010 Games, Richardson's racked up titles including the 2013 World Spring Champion.
- Mikaela Shiffrin, Alpine Skiing: She shot to sports stardom quickly, and she's the youngest male or female slalom world champion in US history.
- Hannah Kearney, Freestyle Skiing: She is the defending gold-medal champion and has pretty much dominated the field in moguls.
- Ashley Wagner, Figure Skating: Despite the drama surrounding her qualification for Team USA, she is a favorite.
- Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Ice Dancing: The duo has already earned two world-champion titles, and if they took home first place in the Olympics, it would be the first US gold in ice dancing.
What's the deal with the Sochi mascots?
Olympic mascots first came into play in the Summer of 1972, when the International Olympic Committee officially approved the idea. Used to promote the Games, the mascots are regulated not by the IOC, but by the organizers of each Olympic Games, so the design and selection process varies each time. Sochi 2014 has three mascots — the polar bear, the hare, and the leopard — which were chosen from among more than 24,000 sketches that were sent to the organizing committee. Olympic specialists, designers, and members of the public all weighed in on the 11 finalists, and the three mascots were announced on Feb. 26, 2011.