Prepare for the opening ceremonies this Friday, with some fascinating facts about the Winter Olympics. Have an ice day.
• The 2014 games are officially known as the XXII Olympic Winter Games. It’s the 22nd edition. The first took place in Chamonix, France, in 1924, just 28 years after the first modern-day Summer Olympics took place in Athens in 1896.
• Athletes from just 16 nations showed up to compete in 1924, including the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, and Italy. No nations from Asia or South American were represented. By comparison, the 2010 games in Vancouver drew contenders from 82 countries.
• Newest Winter Olympics events: Skeleton, snowboarding, and curling. Well, sort of. Curling was a part of the 1924 games, but didn’t return until 1998, the same year snowboarding debuted. Skeleton, a single-person event in which athletes sled down a hill face-first at mind-numbing speed, was added in 2002 after brief runs in 1928 and 1948.
• The 1940 Winter Olympics were scheduled to be held in Sapporo, Japan, but were cancelled because of World War II. The same fate befell the 1944 Winter Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. However both cities eventually got to host a games: Sapporo in 1972, and Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956.
• First Olympics mascot: “Schuss,” a downhill skier designed for the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France. The 2014 Sochi games will have three mascots: “Bely Mishka,” a polar bear, “Zaika,” a hare, and “Barsik,” a snow leopard.
• Sochi isn’t known for its winter weather. The daytime temperatures in the area hit 50 degrees F on average this time of year. Sochi is more of a beach community, seeing as how it’s right next to the Black Sea. Outdoor events will be held at Krasnaya Polyana, a nearby ski resort, but officials are worried that there won’t be enough fresh powder. In order to prevent problems, they’ve been storing 710,000 cubic meters of “used” snow at a nearby facility. They’ve also got 500 “snow guns” that can make artificial snow if necessary.