The longest Olympic torch relay in the history of the Games has arrived at its final destination – Sochi.
The torch began its record-setting journey in Moscow on October 7.
It stopped at more than 130 cities and towns across Russia and covered some 65,000 kilometres.
Shortly after its departure it traveled to the North Pole aboard a nuclear-powered icebreaker whilst it was also carried into space for a spacewalk.
The scale of the torch relay and the staggering amount of money put into these Games is an indication of how important a reemergence on the international scene is to the host nation and President Vladimir Putin.
With a price tag the equivalent of 37 billion euros, the Sochi Winter Olympics are the most expensive in the history of the Olympic movement.
But come Friday as the Olympic cauldron is lit the focus will be more on the competition than on the bill.
Euronews spoke with Russia 24 reporter Dmitry Shchugorev to get feel of how things are shaping up in and around the Black Sea resort on the eve of the Games.
Alexei Doval, euronews: “Dmitry, hi, and first of all, where are you now, what’s the mood there, how’s the weather?
Dmitry Shchugorev, Russia 24 correspondent: “I came from Moscow where it is very cold now, we had up to minus 30 degrees Celsius last week, so, to find yourself in such perfect climate is very pleasant and unexpected. I’m standing in the Olympic Square, around which are massed the most important arenas and sites of the Olympics, but in the mountains there’s a real Russian winter, lots of snow, enough for any competition”.
euronews: Some of the competitions have already started before the opening ceremony, namely in figure skating. The Sochi games will for the first time feature team competitions in figure skating. What else is interesting in the programme?
Shchugorev: “I liked very much the snowboard competition that I watched today, the guys there were really defying gravity, demonstrating a circus-like prowess. There were some falls, I imagine they must have hurt, but, astonishingly, there have been no reports of traumas or any serious injuries”
euronews: “These Games will feature world’s top athletes. And what are the favourites of Russian fans?”
Shchugorev: “These are well known – figure skating that we’ve mentioned, but first and foremost – ice hockey. As the saying goes, the lion’s share of all interest for Winter Olympics is in ice hockey itself, and waiting for the ice hockey to start! This may be an exaggeration, other disciplines are interesting as well, but for many Russians, ice hockey is the most important sport, as well as the biathlon, how could I forget!”
euronews: “Do you know of any details of this Friday’s opening ceremony?”
Shchugorev: “I wish! As you know, opening ceremonies are carefully rehearsed and kept under the strictest secrecy, so we’re all going to see that live. We journalists are told nothing – well, maybe a couple of photos or drawings are circulated, but you’ve already seen them on TV. That’s all I know, so, like you, I will wait to see this with my own eyes what’s in store.”
euronews: “During the preparations Sochi and its neighbourhoods were radically transformed. In order to host the Games, Russia had to make tremendous efforts and spend a lot of money. What’s your impression of the new arenas and sport sites?”
Shchugorev: “They’re literally shiny, brand new. The first thing that attracts your attention when you arrive in Sochi – and I visited the city many times, during the candidacy period and later, when the preparations had already started – so, what struck one is not not the sport sites themselves, but the airport. It’s a highly modern structure, in line with the latest European and world standards. And the stadiums that we can seen now, have been finished for a year already. They’re shiny, sparkling and even smelling like brand new things… and they’re smelling of Olympic victories, of course.”