In February 2013, the countdown for Sochi 2014 was officially celebrated in a ceremony. Clocks to count down the remaining time until the beginning of the Winter Olympics and Paralympics were installed in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Nizhni Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don and Khabarovsk. In Sochi, President Vladimir Putin pressed the symbolic countdown button for the games and said in his speech:
by Olivia Kroth
"The work taking place in Sochi and around is unprecedented in Russia's modern history. The area's unique natural conditions and the infrastructure we have put in place will make these games the most convenient for the sports people and thousands of visitors. The games will leave a legacy of unprecedented scale that will bring enormous benefits for Sochi itself and for developing sport in Russia."
The President loves Sochi. He goes to the Krasnaya Polyana skiing resort in the Caucasus Mountains as often as his busy schedule will permit and receives prominent guests in his Sochi residence. In January 2013, he invited actor Gérard Dépardieu for dinner in Sochi and gave him his Russian passport as a special present.
The official Olympic mascots chosen for Sochi, a meeting point between the Black Sea and the Caucasus mountains, are the polar bear, the hare and the leopard. All three animals are indigenous in Russia and the Caucasus.
Special coins have been issued since 2011 to commemorate the event. The Sochi 2014 Coin Programme has been introduced by the Russian Central Bank, together with Sberbank of Russia. In 2011, the first silver and gold coins were released into circulation: a gold coin with a face value of 1.000 rubles, depicting Sochi's flora, as well as two gold coins in the series "Sports dating from the first Olympic Winter Games." They have a face value of 50 rubles, showing bobsleigh and curling.
A silver coin depicts the Russian winter, while four silver coins with the face value of three rubles each present "Modern Sports in the Olympic Winter Games": Biathlon, Alpine skiing, figure skating and ice hockey.
As a novelty, rectangular gold coins were minted in 2012. These coins depict Russia's double-headed eagle on one side and the bear, Sochi's mascot, on the other side. The Russian Central Bank issued 100.000 of these square cut gold coins, with a face value of 100 rubles, and 300.000 gold coins with a face value of 80 rubles. Additionally, 300.000 silver coins were brought out with a face value of three rubles.
All of the coins can be bought at the Russian branches of Sberbank. They are a very good bargain, because the precious metals' value is far higher than the coins' actual face value. Thus, the Russian government is giving its citizens gold and silver at very low prices, a nice Sochi 2014 gift.
New Olympic banknotes of 100 rubles have also been issued by Russia's Central Bank. They feature a snowboarder in Sochi on one side, a firebird on the other side. The banknote has been imprinted with the image vertically. It was first presented at the Krasnaya Polyana ski resort in the Caucasus. The idea of the snowboarder came from Pavel Bushuyev, who studies art at the Saint Petersburg Academy.
An official Sochi 2014 clothing and footwear collection was created, which is available at the Bosco shops all over Russia. Mikhail Kusnirovich, Head of the Bosco Group, pointed out that these "Olympic memorabilia can be kept for a lifetime. T-shirts, polo shirts, rucksacks, track suits, windbreakers and sports shoes are all ways of keeping one's memories alive."
Bosco is a Russian clothing brand for sport and active recreation. The company was given the status of exclusive supplier to Russia's Olympic and Paralympic teams. The design of the official Sochi 2014 sportswear was inspired by traditional Russian handicraft colours and styles, presented in patchwork fashion.
Its visual image may evoke a multitude of emotions about beauty, creativity, culture, dreams, family, freedom, future, honour, hospitality, joy, motherland, peace, planet earth, pride, reliability, time, victory and warmth. In Russia, people are proud of their identity. The patchwork pattern reflects their many facets and characteristic traits.
Each patch of material reminds us of a particular Russian craft: Gzhel pottery, Ivanovo calico, Kokhloma painted woodwork, Kuban patterns, Mezenskaya painting, Pavlov Posad shawls, Uftyuzhskaya painting, Vologda lace, Yakutsk patterns and Zhostovo enamel. The mix of these traditional Russian handicrafts, in combination with the sleek and modern line of the Sochi sportswear, provides a very original look.
A portion of the sales revenues will go to the preparation of the Sochi 2014 Winter Games, also to environmental and educational programmes in and around Sochi. At the launching ceremony, several Sochi Ambassadors presented the Bosco collection, for example the ice dance champion, Tatiana Navka.
Born on the 13th of April 1975 in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, Tatiana Navka began skating at the age of five. From 1998 on, she was coached by Natalia Linichuk. She competed as ice dancer and was World Champion twice, in 2004 and 2005. For three years in a row, she became the Grand Prix Final Champion in 2003, 2004 and 2005. With her partner, Roman Kostomarov, she won Olympic Gold in 2006. In 2007, she received the Order of Friendship for her outstanding achievements in physical culture and sports development.
After retiring from competition, Tatiana Navka appeared regularly in Russia's Channel One ice shows, Stars on Ice and Ice Age. She says about her new role as Sochi 2014 Ambassador, "It is an honour for me to be offered this privilege. Within my new role, I will put effort into ensuring the revival of sports in Russia."
Another famous ice star has been chosen as Sochi 2014 Ambassador, the Russian figure skater, Evgeny Plushenko. He was born on the 3rd of November 1982 in Solnechy, Khabarovsky Krai, and started skating at the age of four. In Saint Petersburg, he worked with his teacher, Alexei Mishin, when he turned 11.
At 14, he won the 1997 World Junior Championship. In 2000 and 2001, Evgeny Plushenko won every event that he participated in, including his first World Championship. Altogether, this athletic, miraculous figure skater became World Champion seven times, in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2012.
At the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, he received the gold medal. Furthermore, he won the Grand Prix Final four times and the Russian Championship 10 times. In May 2008, he participated in the Eurovision Song Concert with the Song "Believe" and reached 1st place.
Yevgeni Plushenko will be remembered as the first figure skater in history to master the quadruple toe loop/triple toe loop/triple loop jump combination and the Biellmann Spiral, a cascade of triple axel/triple flip/Euler. He is a Russian "Wunderkind" on ice. Hopefully, the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games will produce more of his kind.
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