Winter Olympics 2014: The essential guide, including TV details, events and dates

Four years after the athletes and people of Vancouver embraced the 2010 Winter Olympics, attentions now turn to Sochi, Russia, as the city gears up to host the 22nd Winter games

Whether its Torvill and Dean's triumph in Sarajevo, Eddie the Eagle's example of true 'heroic failure', Team GB's curling gold led by housewife Rhona Martin, or perhaps, the participation of the Jamaican bobsleigh team in Calgary, the Winter Olympics has given us some great sporting memories. And over the next few weeks we can expect many more.

To ensure you know your skeleton from your skiing, here we provide you with all the vital information on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

 

The essentials

The 2014 Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia.  The city was selected as the host city in July 2007. It will be the 22nd Winter Olympics, the first being held in Chamonix, France, in 1924. The games will be held February 7-23, 2014, with an estimated potential audience of three billion watching them.

During the 17 days of competition, 85 countries will compete in 98 events across seven winter sport disciplines, including Biathlon, Bobsleigh, Curling, Ice Hockey, Luge, Ice Skating and Skiing. 98 sets of medals will be contested for. Norway, Canada and the USA rank highly among the early favourites and will be the ones to beat in Sochi.

There will be 11 sport venues situated in two clusters: the Coastal Cluster in Sochi, which will also be the Sochi Olympic Park, and the Mountain Cluster in Krasnaya Polyana, in the Western Caucasus.

One of the venues in Sochi One of the venues in Sochi  

The lowdown

The spotlight is well and truly on Sochi, as the 2014 Winter Olympics attract more attention and scrutiny than any other in the history of the games. There are a number of reasons why all eyes are on the Russian city.

It is the first post-Soviet era Olympics to take place in Russia, and the country has pulled out all the stops in its preparation, reportedly spending £32bn which would surpass Beijing as the most expensive Olympics ever. Much of the finances have been spent on building a vast transport system and all the venues from scratch, along with putting an impressive security infrastructure in place, manned by some 40,000 police and military personnel.

During the build-up to the Games, there have also been several major controversies, including allegations of corruption, concerns over the effect of Russia's ban on "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations," and various security concerns regarding extremists groups.

Police officers detain a gay rights activist during a protest outside the headquarters for the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee in Moscow Police officers detain a gay rights activist during a protest outside the headquarters for the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee in Moscow  

Location

Adored by the likes of Vladimir Putin, and before his time, Joseph Stalin, Sochi has undergone a facelift in recent years. Fuelled by Russian oligarchs to make it a seaside resort fit to host the Winter Olympics, the pearl of the 'Russian Riviera' is located 900 miles south of Moscow on the coast of the Black Sea, and is Russia's largest resort city. It is also one of the only places in Russia to have a subtropical climate, and with warm summers and mild winters, palm trees, hot springs and pebble beaches, it could not be further from the snowy remoteness that comes to mind when you think of Russia, which may seem strange considering it is hosting the Winter Olympics. It is for this reason that for Alpine events, athletes will have to travel to Krasnaya Polyana in the Caucasus Mountains.

The Russian President Vladimir Putin tries on a Sochi volunteer's uniform The Russian President Vladimir Putin tries on a Sochi volunteer's uniform  

Where can I watch it?

With a promised 200 hours of network TV coverage on BBC Two brought to you by presenters Claire Balding, Hazel Irvine and Jonathan Edwards, and over 650 hours of live action via six HD and Red Button streams, the BBC is offering the most televised and unprecedented coverage of a Winter Olympics yet. Whether you're an Olympic virgin or veteran, you will no doubt be hooked in by a sport you may never have heard of, like luge, or obsessed by one that you never thought in your wildest dreams you would be interested in, like curling, or perhaps you already know what all the fuss is about, and will be glued to your television regardless. Either way, the BBC has it all covered for your viewing pleasure. You will also be able to catch all the main events on BBC Radio 5 live.

You can check at the BBC's OTT trailer here.

An A-Z of the Winter Olympics

 

Team GB

On the Team GB front, there has arguably never been so much optimism and expectation surrounding the prospect of winning medals. Great Britain's current best tally is four, won in Chamonix, France, at the inaugural Winter Olympics in 1924, but they will be hoping they can smash that after a disappointing medal haul at Vancouver in 2010, in which Amy Williams' won Team GB's only medal, a gold in the skeleton.

This time around, among those expected to push for gold include Lizzy Yarnold and Shelly Rudman in the skeleton, which you can see live on BBC Two on 14 February at 17:10. Another hopeful James Woods competes in the ski slopestyle on 13 February at 09:30, live on BBC Two, and the women's curling team, led by Eve Muirhead, can be seen from 08:30 on 20 February on BBC Two.

UK Athletics has announced a target of four to seven medals for Team GB.

Lizzy Yarnold is among the brightest hopes for Team GB in Sochi Lizzy Yarnold is among the brightest hopes for Team GB in Sochi  

The ones to watch

The stars ready to set the world alight in the snow include American alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who despite still being a teenager is already a world champion after winning the world title in the slalom at the 2013 World Championships in Austria.

Another American to keep your eyes peeled for is Shaun White. Nicknamed "The Flying Tomato," he is bidding for a third consecutive gold medal, having won halfpipe gold in Turin and Vancouver.

Winter Olympic cross-country skier Marit Bjoergen of Norway is a 12-time world champion and won five Olympic medals in 2010, the best of any athlete at the Games, however the Olympian's success has been soured after allegations of cheating by arch-rival Justyna Kowalczyk.

Yuna Kim of South Korea is another hoping for success, as she looks for the perfect end to her illustrious career when she aims to retain her Olympic figure skating title, while Olympic and world luge champion Felix Loch will be the man to beat in Sochi. NHL top scorer Alex Ovechkin will also be hoping to inspire his team to ice hockey gold at a home Olympic Games for the Russians.

Mikaela Shiffrin Mikaela Shiffrin  

The Opening Ceremony

A highlight for many viewers, the Opening Ceremony will take place on 7th February 2014 at the Fisht Olympic Stadium at 4.14pm (GMT). The BBC's coverage will run from 4pm-7pm. Few details are known about how Russia plans to open the Games, but if the sending of the Olympic Torch into space tells us anything, expect it to be flashy.

The Olympic cauldron is tested with the Bolshoy ice dome The Olympic cauldron is tested with the Bolshoy ice dome  

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