Winter Olympics 2014: 10 Reasons To Give A Damn

Not remotely interested in the impending snow-based sport fiesta that starts in Sochi this Friday? Well, you should be. Here’s why

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1 | There’ll Be Crashes
Snow and ice, and staying on your feet, make uneasy bed-fellows. Almost every sport at Sochi has the potential to go spectacularly wrong at pretty much any moment. And let's be honest, that equals great television, as this clip collection goes to show:

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2 | There’ll Be A Guy Called Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe
The Winter Olympics has a long tradition of attracting mavericks, eccentrics and the borderline barmy. Amongst this year’s batch is Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe, a German aristocrat born in Mexico City who set up the one man Mexican Ski Federation in 1981, and will become the second oldest Winter Olympian at 55 when he races downhill in a ski suit inspired by Mexican folk music. As if that wasn't enough, precocious violinist Vanessa Mae will be skiing for Thailand. Got to be worth a watch.

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3 | The USA v Russia Thing
Always an enjoyably clichéd match up full of outdated cold war references in any sport, USA v Russia takes on even more compelling significance when it comes to Ice Hockey. Why? Because it’s one of the most violent team sports known to man where punching is actively encouraged (kind of). Home boys Russia are strong favourites but the US team is thought to have their best chance of grabbing back the gold they last won in 1980 in the much-heralded (in Ice Hockey circles) 'Miracle On Ice'.

4 | It’ll Be Hard to Avoid (So You May As Well Get On Board)
Remember that golden Olympic summer of 2012 when the world was new, Stratford was a desirable place to spend the day and Clare Balding could have successfully run for London mayor? Well, the BBC will be hoping the Balding factor will return as she is fronting the most extensive Winter Olympics coverage ever with live coverage starting at 7am each day, a nightly highlights package every evening at 7pm and a total of 650 hours of live action via six HD streams. Basically, it’ll be everywhere so you might as well watch.

6 | Plucky Brits Will Be Out In Force
Nowhere are British athletes pluckier and less likely to win than in the Winter Games. And that means that when they do, commentators are liable to start spasming with excitement. Outside chances to keep an eye out for include Elise Christie in the speed skating, Shelley Rudman in the skeleton, Zoe Gillings in the snowboard cross and James Woods in the slopestyle skiing. 

7 | Slopestyle Skiing/Snowboarding Makes Its Debut
One of a new batch of sports being unveiled for the first time in 2014, Slopestyle sees riders make their way down a run via various jumps and obstacles, being judged on the tricks they manage to pull off. It has been criticised in some quarters for being 'made up' but others are predicting it could be amongst the stand-out highlights. Tune in this weekend to find out.

 
8 | If You Watch One Thing, Make It The Men’s Downhill
The Daddy or, less colloquially, ‘showpiece’ event of any Winter Olympics takes place on the wild and mysterious mountain of  Rosa Khutor in the Caucasus. Mountains. It was virtual wilderness 7 years ago but has been transformed at great expense into a major player on the skiing map.

“The hill itself, if it’s not the best, then it’s one of the best I’ve ever skied," said American skier and gold medal hopeful  Bode Miller. “It’s perfect for a natural downhill, you almost don’t have to put in gates.”

Set your alarm for 7am on Sunday February 9th, BBC1

9 | But The Women Might Steal The Show
Sochi looks to set to be a games where the biggest stars could be well be the women from Arianna Fontana in the speed skating to 18-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin in the Slalom.

10 | Noriaki 'Kamikaze' Kasai
Still not convinced? Even if you hate sport, you have to take your wooly hat off to the ski jumpers and Japanese veteran Noriaki Kasai is one of this nutty sport's greatest stars, thanks largely to a style which can only be accurately described as “ balls out”, in every sense.