published Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Russia now on the clock as countdown begins for 2014

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    FILE -- An April 25, 2009 file photo shows the construction of Olympic facilities in the Imeretinskaya valley in Sochi, Russia's Black Sea resort. Sochi will host the Winter Olympic Games 2014. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)

By Charean Williams

McClatchy Newspapers

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver has passed the torch to Sochi, which will host the next Winter Olympics in 2014.

Sochi, located 900 miles south of Moscow, is a resort town set between the shores of the Black Sea and the snow-capped Caucasus Mountains. It is known as the Russian Riviera and is a popular tourist destination.

The 2014 Games, which will be held Feb. 7-23, 2014, already is under fire from activists. The World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace are protesting, claiming unique habitats are being destroyed and that the Mzymta River has been contaminated.

There also were questions in Vancouver about why neither Russian President Dmitry Medvedev nor former president and now Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attended the Closing Ceremony.

Still, the Games will go on four years from now, and organizers vow to be ready to put on the best show ever.

1 — Russian movie stars descend on Sochi once a year for an Open National Film Festival and Winter International Music Festival. Many of the most popular Russian movies were filmed in Sochi.

2 — Greater Sochi has 90 miles of coastline, which is why it claims to be the longest city in Europe.

3 — Some 400,000 people — of 100 nationalities — call Sochi home. More than 2 million tourists visit every summer.

4 — A local tennis school launched the careers of professional tennis players Maria Sharapova and Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Kafelnikov spent most of his formative years in Sochi, while Sharapova moved to Florida when she was 7.

5 — The average February temperature is 43 degrees. Winter temperatures rarely fall below freezing. The city averages 4.72 inches of precipitation in February and 62 inches for the year. But it boasts of 200 sunny days a year.

6 — Russia has never hosted a Winter Games. Moscow hosted the Summer Games in 1980, with the U.S. leading a boycott over the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan.

7 — Sochi will be the most compact Winter Games in the history of the Olympics. Organizers say it will be possible to get from one venue to another in minutes. Eleven athletic venues are being constructed. They are divided into two clusters — coastal and mountain. The clusters are located less than a 30-minute ride from each other along a new railway.

8 — The Olympic Park, located near Sochi's international airport, will accommodate up to 75,000 people. It is the first time a Winter Games has featured an Olympic Park. It will be the setting for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and all ice venues.

9 — Sochi is building 42,000 new hotel rooms to accommodate more than 100,000 visitors.

10 — Organizers have raised more than $1 billion in sponsorship revenues from Russian firms.

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(c) 2010, Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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