Tag Archives: Sochi

The Bidding For The 2022 Olympics Is A Disaster, And The $51-Billion Sochi Games Is Getting The Blame

russian tv doctored rings video

In a telling quote, influential International Olympic Committee member Gian-Franco Kasper told CNN that the 2014 Sochi Olympics was too expensive.

“Russia did what [Switzerland] did in our ski resorts in 150 years in five years, that of course costs money,” he said. “And then they did it in the Russian way, as big and as beautiful as possible. But more than $50 billion was just too much, there’s no question.”

At a cost of $51 billion, the Sochi games were widely criticized for being wasteful and corrupt. A single 31-mile train and highway project cost $8.7 billion — more than the entire Vancouver Olympics.

But in light of the disastrous bidding process of the 2022 Olympics, it’s clear that the games didn’t just cost the Russian people, it cost the IOC as well.

Every potential host city for the 2022 games with a democratically elected government eventually pulled its bid proposal. Stockholm and Oslo both cited the exorbitant cost as the reason. Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Beijing are the only two cities still bidding.

For the first time ever, the IOC is faced with the perception that the Olympics are too expensive, and it knows it.

IOC president Thomas Bach has a 40-point reform plan that will be discussed at the next big IOC meeting in December. Part of the plan is to make the Olympics cheaper and thus more attractive to bidders who were scared off by the Sochi 2014 price tag.

“We see with the 2022 bids that we are living in a time of world crisis, financial crisis and that there are of course — and that is legitimate — more questions being asked by the people about the financing of the Games,” said Bach. “This is why on the agenda (in Monaco) we want to address the issue of reducing the cost of the Games, of reducing the cost of bidding.”

Sochi was the catalyst for these cost concerns and any subsequent reforms.

The IOC saw this coming. In January, IOC marketing chief Gerhard Heiberg told Reuters that the Olympics should not cost $51 billion because it’d hurt the future of the games.

He said: “We have to go back to basics. We need a competition where the cities will not spend that much money. If we continue what we see now, then a lot of countries will stay away from winter Olympics. I know (IOC) president is concerned about that.”

Kasper told CNN that part of the reform plan is to offer more financial assistance to hosts. The IOC is currently offering $880 million to the host of the 2022 Olympics, but that’s not all that significant against the estimated $5 billion it would have cost Oslo to host the games, much less the $51 billion Sochi spent.

Academics have long concluded that hosting the Olympics is not a wise financial investment. As the world begins to adopt this view, it’s up to the IOC to figure out how to make the Olympics worth bidding for again.


To crunch granite in Olympic-level curling, be prepared to crunch numbers

Olympic Curling

The vast majority of winter Olympic sports are inaccessible to the average viewer watching at home. You know you can’t ski like Ted Ligety, or skate like Shani Davis. You don’t have the first clue how to drive a bobsled, can’t fly from a halfpipe like Shaun White, and your dreams of suiting up for USA Hockey were scuttled when you never made the NHL. Or learned to play hockey. Or to even to ice skate.

But curling. Ah, curling. The true everyman sport. After drawing more buzz than speed skating and snowboarding at the Vancouver Olympics, curling has spent even more time on American television screens during the Sochi games. In Canada, where it’s wildly popular, curling is treated a lot like being in a bowling league. Competition, yes, but also friends and beer and quirky terminology (Hog line! Hammer! Hack Weight! The Manitoba Curl!).

Curling might look like shuffleboard on ice, but it’s really, really hard.

The aesthetic accessibility might lead some to believe it could be them in Sochi, on the world stage sliding stones or pushing brooms, in the big low-fi, low-tech party that is Olympic curling. They’d be wrong, of course, on every level. First, curling might look like shuffleboard on ice, but it’s really, really hard. Second, there’s more going on than meets the eye.

Don’t kick yourself for thinking otherwise, says John Benton, who represented the U.S. in Vancouver and is serving as a television analyst for NBC in Sochi. “This is a fairly common misperception,” he says. “There is a ton of physics going on out there, and to have the precision required to slide a 42-pound piece of polished granite 120 feet down a sheet of ice to a spot that is sometimes about a foot around takes a ton of technical know-how.”

The foundation is friction, and understanding how manipulating it can manipulate the stone. Sweeping ahead of the stone heats the ice ever so slightly, lessening friction and allowing it to travel faster. Then there’s the release, in which the stone’s handle is turned, rotating it and helping shape its path down the ice based on more frictional forces. Finally, there’s the physics of momentum, as stones must be used to knock each other around strategically. Sometimes a curler will want his stone to stop completely while knocking another out of scoring range, other times he may want to split the available momentum between two stones.

(Universities like to publish elaborate papers about this stuff. To have it explained more accessibly by a petite Canadian woman, click here.)

There is some gadgetry, as well. Some of it is very simple – timing devices, for example, help determine the relative speed of different stones on the ice. (In theory, they all ought to behave the same. In practice, they don’t.) Some broom heads contain a thermal reflective material, helping reflect the heat generated by sweeping back into the ice. Sliding shoes, Benton notes, contain low-friction materials like Teflon or stainless steel. At the Olympic level, stones have sensors embedded in the handles to detect whether a stone is released ahead of the foul, or “hog” line. Video analysis, both as a training device and scouting tool, is widely used.

Fun for sure, but not exactly the technological stuff of spy satellites and smartwatches.

Curling may be a quaint throwback sport ruled by the concepts of honor and sportsmanship, but it definitely leaps into modernity in the use of statistical analysis. The analytics movement now prevalent across America’s most popular major sports like the NBA also plays a big role in curling, particularly at the elite level.

Sliding shoes contain low-friction materials like Teflon or stainless steel.

“Most top teams are using some sort of statistical package to analyze each player, the whole team, the other team, for shooting percentages as well as game-plan execution,” says Benton. “These packages have become extremely detailed in what is tracked and how. Much more than simple shooting percentages.” That granularity can impact in-game decision making.

“An example might be that after three games, one player is showing that they are struggling (under 75 percent) throwing take-outs (removing the opponent’s stone) on the right-hand side of the ice, but only when throwing a counter-clockwise rotation. The team coach can do this analysis and then go back to the video of the game to get at a possible cause and solution for the player,” he says.

Despite its simple fundamentals, curling is actually a sport tailor made for analytics – heavily influenced by key strategic choices, and played at a slow enough pace to have those choices considered by a group of athletes already required to understand things like physics.

Meaning smart folk.

So as you get lost in your couch cushions wondering how you just spent the last four hours conquered by the hypnotic sights and sounds of televised Olympic curling, take comfort knowing you’re participating not just in the gentlemanly, ancient traditions of a sport tracing its roots back to 15th century Scotland, but a great leap (throw? slide?) forward into our future.

Pussy Riot members ‘arrested in Sochi


SOCHI, Russia (AP) — A Russian human rights activist says two members of the punk band Pussy Riot have been detained near the Olympics in downtown Sochi.

Semyon Simonov says he was with Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova at the time. He says the two women have been accused of theft, and says several other activists were also detained by police.

Alekhina and Tolokonnikova spent nearly two years in prison but were released in December. They were convicted of hooliganism after staging a protest in Moscow’s most prominent cathedral in opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s government.

Alekhina and Tolokonnikova recently visited the U.S. to take part in an Amnesty International concert.

11 Surreal Photos That Make Sochi Look Like The Summer Olympics

The official slogan for the Sochi Olympics is “Hot. Cool. Yours.” Prior to the Olympics we could not have anticipated just how prescient that would be.

With temperatures reaching the 60s on several days, the warm weather has wreaked havoc on some events.

But it has also created some amazing photos of the Olympics, both during the events and outside the venues. We collected 11 of our favorites from Getty, AP, and Reuters.

A volunteer takes a break to soak in some rays.

A volunteer takes a break to soak in some rays.

Lots of people are taking to the beach.Lots of people are taking to the beach.The water is even warm enough for some to swim.The water is even warm enough for some to swim.American cross country skier Sophie Caldwell switched to a tank top to deal with the heat.American cross country skier Sophie Caldwell switched to a tank top to deal with the heat.Some spectators ditched more than sleeves.Some spectators ditched more than sleeves. Such as this spectator at the cross-country course.Such as this spectator at the cross-country course.One man stripped down to his underwear before going in the water.One man stripped down to his underwear before going in the water.The Olympic Village at times looks like Central Park in the spring.The Olympic Village at times looks like Central Park in the spring.With temperatures reaching the low 60s, some turned to t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops.With temperatures reaching the low 60s, some turned to t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops.Chris Jepersen, a Norwegian cross country skier, cut the sleeves and legs off of his uniform.Chris Jepersen, a Norwegian cross country skier, cut the sleeves and legs off of his uniform.And of course, people love the beach.And of course, people love the beach.

Ranking The Architecture Of The 2014 Winter Olympics

Thousands of the best athletes in the world have descended on Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Olympics, ready to duke it out for international acclaim and a one-pound metal disk. In the run-up to the actual sports, though, no one really wanted to talk about the folks who might be taking the podium. Nope, the main focus was on how effing expensive these Olympics have been.

They’ve run Russia some $50 billion, between new infrastructure, rampant corruption, and artificial snow. But at least a few billion dollars have been sunk into building Sochi a whole host of new venues, from colorful (if mildly unfinished) hotels to a new curling center.

In honor of the competitive spirit of the Olympics, I present the official architecture of the Olympics, ranked according to my expert (read: totally arbitrary) notions of “awesomeness.” Let the Games begin!


I think I’ve passed this Radisson on a Midwestern highway somewhere.


Great name aside, this place looks like a metal Fruit by the Foot. According to organizers, the simplicity of the design “symbolizes democracy,” which maybe says something about how boring they think democracy is. Bonus points for all those accessibility ramps, though. Wheelchair curling looks awesome.


The renderings for this baby looked supreme. But that could have been because they were super shiny. In real life, the shape–meant to evoke snowy mountain peaks–is eye-catching, but it’ll never live up to my hopes and dreams.


Lit up at night, this place looks awesome. During the day, it looks like an air-conditioning unit. Boo.


Named after a hockey puck, it’s another swirly, sleek building with a semi-translucent facade. Medium cool.


A pretty paint job is definitely more important than running water and completed construction. Extra points for prioritizing aesthetics!


Yeah, you own that “beautiful subtropical resort” look, Sochi.


Roughly translated, the name means “big ice dome,” so that’s a win in my book. The 12,000-seat hockey arena is designed to look like a frozen droplet, or a Fabergé egg, but I would characterize it more as a spaceship. A giant hockey spaceship that’s about to go sliding into the net of your heart.


This is the most majestic skating palace I’ve ever seen. Gold medal!

Out Olympian Speedskater Ireen Wüst Wins Gold In Sochi

Ireen Wüst skates to first place

Ireen Wüst, a speedskater from the Netherlands, won first place Sunday in the 3,000-meter competition in Sochi, defeating the defending champion from Czech Republic. She is one of few out LGBT olympians competing in Sochi.

Wüst finished in just 4 minutes, 0.34 seconds — just ahead of Martina Sablikova, the defending champ. Sablikova took silver after stopping the timer at 4 minutes, 1.95 seconds, while Russia’s Olga Graf won the bronze medal, finishing in 4 minutes, 3.47 seconds. Graf’s medal is the first in the games for Russia, the host nation.

Wüst, 27, won her first gold medal at the age of 19 in the same event during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, becoming the youngest Dutch Winter Olympic champion. In 2010, she won gold in the the women’s 1,500-meter race in Vancouver, Canada. 

CORRECTION: Wüst has described herself as bisexual. A previous version of this post incorrectly stated her sexual identity and was brought to our attention by sharp-eyed commenters.