Winter Olympics 2014: Cold war and thaw - The Independent's take on a fortnight in Sochi

From hidden cameras in the bathroom to melting sporting moments Robin Scott-Elliot chronicles the Winter Olympics’ looking-glass world on ice

Wednesday 5 February

Russian athletes in red-and-white speckled jackets cheer when the flight from Moscow touches down. They are greeted by smiling volunteers. Behind them workmen are hard at it, and there’s plenty to do.

While the Russians bounce off to the Olympic Village eager to begin, the rest of the sporting world arrives with an excess baggage-load of reservation. It’s not long before howls of protest from the media, in particular the US media, begin – a theme of American knocking of the Games is already established, as the shabby accommodation lives down to expectations.

It’s a sideshow but one linked to the future of the Olympic venues and infrastructure. It requires an optimistic imagination to see a true legacy, and that should alarm the International Olympic Committee amid back-patting and self-congratulation.

 

Thursday 6 February

Off we go – but not before Dmitry Kozak, the Deputy Prime Minister, causes a stir by saying there are secret cameras in the bathrooms in the media hotels. The Independent searches its bathroom. Paranoia threatens when Pravda takes the paper to task for its coverage.

The remains of one bathroom door which was smashed through when an American athlete got stuck The remains of one bathroom door which was smashed through when an American athlete got stuck  

Friday 7 February

The opening ceremony is spectacular, although the most memorable moment in the Fisht Stadium – built for $600m (£360m) to host the opening and closing ceremonies – is the Ministry of the Interior’s uniformed choir belting out Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” in the pre-ceremony.

The Russian Police choir performing 'Get Lucky' by Daft Punk. The Russian Police choir performing 'Get Lucky' by Daft Punk.  

Sunday 9 February

Britain are up and running. Jenny Jones takes slopestyle bronze in the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. Like so much of the Sochi Games, what you see on TV is fantastic but around the edges it’s all a bit frayed. As the snow melts, white sheets are pinned around the Olympic rings next to the finish line.

Like her fellow slopestylers, Jones is chatty and chilled, happy to explain her sport to bemused journalists. One, deciding he has the hang of this, asks Billy Morgan if his run in the men’s slopestyle was a little “conservative”. “Conservative!” splutters Morgan. He is later spotted sitting near the finish line with a can of lager and an attractive Kiwi snowboarder. There is nothing conservative about this lot – covering them is enough to refresh the most cynical sporting heart.

Great Britain's Jenny Jones celebrates after fining out she won Bronze in the Women's Snowboard Snowstyle Final Great Britain's Jenny Jones celebrates after fining out she won Bronze in the Women's Snowboard Snowstyle Final  

Tuesday 11 February

Shaun White is the biggest name here but is upstaged  by the I-Pod, or Iouri Podladtchikov, a Russian-born Swiss. “It’s hot, it’s cool and it’s fucking mine,” he yells, in his version of the Games slogan. He later moans that in the contrary world of snowboarding he has become less popular with women because an Olympic gold means he has gone mainstream.

Shaun White of the United States congratulates gold medalist Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland Shaun White of the United States congratulates gold medalist Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland  

Thursday 13 February

James Woods fails to win the medal he had been fancied for in slopestyle but then news of Elise Christie’s progress to the final of the 500m short-track sparks a frantic dash down the mountain. Her disqualification begins Christie’s fraught Games and then it’s back up the mountain for the first of Lizzy Yarnold’s skeleton runs, and another hour on a coach where the world’s media bicker and bustle for seats. So far the British have fallen out with the Austrians and Americans and not made themselves popular with the Germans after the sight of one of their larger journalists breaking a media centre chair and being sent sprawling across the floor twice in the space of half an hour sparks a severe giggling bout.

Elise Christie crashes out in the 500m speed skating final Elise Christie crashes out in the 500m speed skating final  

Friday 14 February

So dominant was Yarnold last night there is an inevitability to her gold. Still it is only the 10th Britain has won in the Winter Games and a moment to savour. Hers is a remarkable story of a remarkably single-minded young woman. She controls the controllables, as they say in British Olympic circles, to the nth degree.

Great Britain's Lizzy Yarnold celebrates after winning Gold in the Women's Skeleton Final during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games Great Britain's Lizzy Yarnold celebrates after winning Gold in the Women's Skeleton Final during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games  

Saturday 15 February

The big event of week one: Russia v US in ice hockey, a fixture resonant with history. The atmosphere is loud but lacks the edge a football match would have. Russia lose after a shoot-out.

Michael Lambert, a Canadian snowboarder, breaks ranks from an otherwise uniform lauding of the Games by athletes. “To act like there aren’t a lot of other very controversial things at play here, it’s ignorant,” says Lambert. “It’s not my reality.”

Elise Christie’s sporting reality is grim. She’s kicked out of her second event.

Ilya Nikulin #5 of Russia talks with Zdeno Chara #33 of Slovakia after defeating Slovakia in a shoot out during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A game Ilya Nikulin #5 of Russia talks with Zdeno Chara #33 of Slovakia after defeating Slovakia in a shoot out during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A game  

Tuesday 18 February

Christie returns to the track and zips through the 1,000m heats. She does not look well as she chats to reporters. She confesses she thought about quitting the Games because of the abuse she received.

Across the Olympic Park, David Murdoch pulls off a last-shot victory over Norway to earn Britain a place in the curling semi-finals. Someone brands it the “shot of the century” and it sticks.

Team GB men's curling captain celebrates his two-point haul in the final end of their tie-break 6-5 victory over Norway Team GB men's curling captain celebrates his two-point haul in the final end of their tie-break 6-5 victory over Norway  

Wednesday 19 February

Eve Muirhead sends her first stone through the house thanks to a stray hair on the ice. The women are beaten by Canada but the male curlers beat Sweden – again on the last shot – and will play off for gold.

Next door gloom descends on the Bolshoi as Finland beat Russia in the ice hockey quarter-finals. Afterwards coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov faces the angry Russian media. He knows what is coming. “You will eat me,” he said of his fate, “and I will be gone.”

Vladimir Putin looks on Vladimir Putin looks on during the ice hockey  

Thursday 20 February

Muirhead’s bronze equals Britain’s best-ever Winter Games haul of four. Britain’s relative success is raising eyebrows. A journalist from Le Monde comes to chat, having been dispatched to discover the reasons behind their neighbours’ improvement.

Great Britain's Anna Sloan, Eve Muirhead, Vicki Adams and Claire Hamilton celebrate after winning the Women's Curling Bronze Medal Game at the Ice Cube Curling Center Great Britain's Anna Sloan, Eve Muirhead, Vicki Adams and Claire Hamilton celebrate after winning the Women's Curling Bronze Medal Game at the Ice Cube Curling Center  

Friday 21 February

Double disappointment for Britain. Murdoch’s form deserts him in the face of a Canadian onslaught and Christie is disqualified again. No one seems entirely sure why, not even her coaches.

Christie is disqualified  

Sunday 23 February

A last trip to the mountains to see if John Jackson can squeeze a final British medal out of the Games. He can’t and, after narrowly avoiding being flattened by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s motorcade, it’s back on the bus to head for a closing ceremony that, whisper it, outshines London.

“It’s like Disney World for athletes,” is how one Canadian curler sums up Sochi 2014. The next-door funfair, called Russia’s Disneyland by Kozak, due to open for the Games, remains unfinished. So that’s it, on-field great, off it plenty of smiles but plenty of questions over sport’s place in global society, the cost, the future… So long, the curate’s egg Olympics.

Hundreds of dancers join together to form the Olympics logo, with the fifth ring purposefully representing the malfunction in the opening ceremony. Hundreds of dancers join together to form the Olympics logo, with the fifth ring purposefully representing the malfunction in the opening ceremony  

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kellie Bright as Linda Carter and Danny Dyer as Mick Carter

EastEnders Christmas specials are known for their shouty, over-the-top soap drama but tonight the show has done itself proud thanks to Danny Dyer.

Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Sport
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy
tvCall the Midwife Christmas Special
Sport
Laura Trott and Jason Kenny are preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there