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This year's Winter Olympic Games feature almost 100 different events in 15 separate sports.
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Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters
The Olympic Flame burns for the duration of the Games.
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David J. Phillip/AP Images
Sochi is a traditional vacation spot on the coast of the Black Sea.
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Jim McMahon
Let the Games Begin!
The 22nd Winter Olympics are set to open in Sochi, Russia, this week

By Laura Leigh Davidson

Gather around, sports fans—it’s time for the 2014 Winter Olympics! Six thousand of the world’s best athletes are about to compete in icy winter sporting events, starting on February 6.

Sochi, a traditional vacation spot on the coast of the Black Sea, is the host city for the 22nd Winter Games. This is the first time Russia has ever hosted a Winter Olympics. Events will take place at 10 competition venues in and around Sochi.

Skiing, snowboarding, and other snow-centric sports will happen on the nearby Krasnaya Polyana mountain peaks. Meanwhile, Fisht Olympic Stadium will be the central location for the skating, hockey, and curling competitions. It will also house Friday’s Opening Ceremony.

During the ceremony, the Olympic Torch will be used to light the Olympic Flame, which will burn for the duration of the Games. Athletes from every participating nation will parade into the stadium in bright uniforms that signal pride in their country’s team.

OLYMPIC TRADITION

The Olympic Games were started by the ancient Greeks around 2,800 years ago. The games were held many times over the centuries; the last ones in ancient times were held in the 4th century A.D.

In the mid-1800s, archaeologists uncovered the ancient sites of the original Greek games. Olympic interest was reignited worldwide, and the first modern Games took place in 1896.

The Games were held in the summer, but over the years winter sports became a regular feature in the Olympics. In 1924, the winter and summer sports were organized into separate Olympic events.

SNOWY SPECTACLE

Today’s Winter Games feature almost 100 different events in 15 separate sports for male and female athletes. Eight of these events will make their Olympic debut at Sochi.

One of the most anticipated new events is ski half-pipe. During this contest, skiers descend into a half-pipe (a semicircular ramp covered in snow) and then soar, executing a series of twists, turns, flips, and grabs above the pipe. Judges score the event on quality of execution and the degree of difficulty of the tricks.

Additionally, this year’s Games will feature a team-figure-skating event. This new contest will be judged similarly to the Summer Olympics’ gymnastics team event. Figure skaters on each team will perform routines and receive their scores. The points for the skaters on each country’s team will be tallied together, and the nation with the highest score will win the gold.

OLYMPIC THRILL

The Winter Olympics come around only once every four years. With the introduction of the new events and the resumption of historic rivalries in sports like ice hockey and speed skating, this year’s Games promise to crank up the heat in a cold competition.