The Sochi Winter Olympics are over. Okay, well, they have been over, but I wanted to write one more post highlighting some of the notable firsts from this year’s games. Before I get to that, let’s talk about that closing ceremony for a bit. It was great to see the Russians poke fun at the ring mishap from the opening ceremony because it really did feel like everything had come full circle. It also helped let the world see a country that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Whether that is true outside of the games or not is irrelevant. This Olympics had Russia on a global stage, giving the country an opportunity to showcase how it wants to appear to the world.
I also thought it was cool to see the Sochi polar bear mascot blow out the flame and shed a tear at the end of the games, harkening back to the way Misha the bear cried during the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. Pyeongchang will host the next Winter Olympics in 2018, but let’s go back to the original idea of this post and take a look at these firsts. Clicking any of the x’s will lead to more information!
- First things first, it was the first Winter Olympics ever hosted by Russia. When you consider that Moscow was still a part of the Soviet Union when it played host to the 1980 summer games, then Sochi 2014 is actually Russia’s first time hosting the Olympics in general. The first games that the Russian Federation participated in was the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. [x]
- At over 6000 kilometers and due largely to Russia’s massive size, the Olympic torch relay was the longest in Winter Olympics history. For the first time, the torch found its way up to the North Pole. The relay also included the third time a torch had been taken to space (unlit, of course) and the first time that a torch had been taken out of the shuttle for a space walk. [x]
- The Winter Olympic mascots were chosen by a public vote for the first time. A snow leopard, a hare, and a polar bear were ultimately chosen, but a little blue frog with warped eyes known as the Zoich actually netted the most votes because the internet. Turned out that the Zoich was just a massive viral campaign commissioned by the Russian Olympic Committee.
- Seven countries made their Winter Olympics debut at Sochi. These seven include Dominica, Malta, Paraguay, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, and Zimbabwe. 88 nations participated in the Sochi 2014, the highest amount to ever qualify for the winter games.
- Because there were so many events, competitions were held a day before the actual opening ceremony. The short program for both men and pairs in the figure skating team event, as well as qualification for ladies’ moguls and men’s and ladies’ slopestyle, all concluded long before the Olympic cauldron was lit. Some athletes ended their run in Sochi before they even marched with their team in the parade of nations. Why was the Olympics more stuffed than megastuf oreos? The addition of twelve new medal events that included the figure skating team event, the luge team relay, and women’s ski jumping. Other new events this year were the biathlon mixed relay, men’s and women’s ski halfpipe, men’s and women’s ski slopestyle, men’s and women’s snowboard slopestyle, and men’s and women’s snowboard parallel slalom. [x]
- Russia won itself a few historic medals throughout the games. The host country gained its first Olympic gold medal in a bobsled event, a short track speed skating event (with help from a skater who used to be on the South Korean team), a skeleton event, a snowboarding event, and ladies’ singles figure skating.
- The United States walked away with some historic medals of its own too. Meryl Davis and Charlie White brought home the USA’s first gold medal in ice dancing with a world record score of 195.52, Erin Hamlin won the country’s first medal in singles luge, and Lauryn Williams became the first American woman to win a medal at both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Williams had already won a gold in London 2012 and a silver in Athens 2004, both in athletics, before winning the silver this year in two-woman bobsled. [x] [x]
- Yuzuru Hanyu became the first Japanese man (and depending on your view of Russia, the first Asian man) to win an Olympic gold medal in figure skating. With a record score of 101.45, Hanyu also became the first skater to ever break the 100-point mark in the short program. [x]
- Japan also has the honor of being the first Asian country to win an Olympic medal in snowboarding. Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka won silver and bronze in the men’s halfpipe competition. Tomoka Takeuchi won silver in the parallel giant slalom event.
- Dominique Gisin of Switzerland and Tina Maze of Slovenia became the first Olympic athletes to tie for gold in any of the alpine skiing events. The two won with a time of 1:41.57, only a tenth of a second faster than bronze medalist Lara Gut of Switzerland. [x]
- The Netherlands dominated speed skating, becoming the only country to sweep the podium in four events under the same sport in a single Olympics. The Dutch took all the medals in the men’s 500m, the men’s 5000m, the men’s 10,000m, and the women’s 1500m. Altogether, the Netherlands took home a whopping 23 of the 36 medals in contention. That’s a little over 60%! Maritt Leenstra of the Netherlands finished fourth in the women’s 1500m, also marking the first time that one country took the top four positions in a speed skating event. [x]
- Great Britain won its first Olympic medal on the snow. Up until the Sochi Olympics, Great Britain had won all its medals in ice events such as figure skating, curling, ice hockey, bobsled, and skeleton. Snowboarder Jenny Jones made history after winning a bronze medal in women’s slopestyle. [x]
Rio de Janeiro is the next city up in the Olympic rotation and it will host the summer games in 2016. You can probably already expect that it will be pretty historic. It’ll be the first one ever hosted in South America, the first Olympics hosted by a Portuguese-speaking country, and…well…
Let’s wait and see.