Stage is set in Sochi with events about to get underway
With the first events of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games set to get underway this Thursday, Sochi’s spectacular new venues are ready to play host to the world’s greatest winter sports stars.
The first action of the Games will see snowboard slopestyle making its debut as an Olympic event, with the men’s and women’s qualifying round due to take place at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. Qualification will also take place for the women’s moguls, while the Sochi figure skating competition will get underway with the pairs and men’s short programme being held as part of the new team event.
Each of the 11 competition venues for Sochi 2014 has been built from scratch, with facilities split into two ‘clusters’ – one by the coast and one in the mountains – creating the first ever Olympic Park at a Winter Games.
“Usually there are Olympic Parks in the summer Olympic Games, but we managed to build an Olympic Park for the Winter Games," explains Oleg Kharchenko, the chief architect in charge of Olympic venue construction. "There hasn't been a Winter Games that have been as compact.”
At the heart of the Olympic Park is the unique, Fisht Olympic Stadium, which will host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Games.
"Architects were inspired by the mountain lines,” explains Kharchenko. “We used the most advanced environmental technologies and materials to make sure it amazes.”
Other eye-catching venues in the Olympic Park include the 12-000-seat Iceberg Skating Palace, which features a beautiful glass façade, and the Bolshoi Ice Dome, which is designed to resemble a huge frozen water droplet.
"The Bolshoi Ice Dome is one of the most beautiful venues in our park,” says Kharchenko. “It is a splendid building. It has one of the largest media facades in Europe and we can project any image onto the roof. In Games time, this will become one of the images of the Olympic Games."
The mountain cluster, meanwhile, contains five competition venues in the Krasnaya Polyana mountains.
The 7,500-capacity Laura Biathlon and Ski Centre – which will host biathlon, cross country skiing and Nordic combined – features two stadiums each with their own start and finish zones, two isolated track systems, a shooting area and warm-up zones.
Freestyle skiing and snowboarding will take place at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, which can hold 4,000 spectators and will remain as a permanent venue for elite competitions after the Games, with specialised tracks for cross-country skiing, aerials, moguls, parallel giant slalom and halfpipe.
Alpine skiing events will be at Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort where the total length of the competition tracks for all disciplines – which were developed by Olympic gold medallist Bernhard Russi – is 20km.
Elsewhere, the RusSki Gorki Jumping Centre will host ski jumping and also the jumping section of Nordic combined, while bobsleigh, luge and skeleton will all be staged at the 5,000-capacity Sanki Sliding Centre.
Each of the venues has already hosted elite-level competitions, with many staging World Cup events over the past two years, and Kharchenko believes they are now ready to catch people’s attention during the Games.
“For any architect involved in this project, it is a great honour and they aimed to create great venues for the Games,” says Kharchenko. "In order for architecture to make a strong impression, we tried to make each venue unique in some way, so it will stick in people's minds."
Now, with the first events due to get underway, the athletes themselves are set to make their own strong impressions as they target performances at the Games that will also “stick in people’s minds”.