Will Russia Recover Olympic Glory in 2014?

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The government of Russia, as well as the Russian people themselves, made no secret about their disappointment in the Russian Olympic team at the 2010 Vancouver games. The country was hoping that their athletes could turn in an impressive performance to help shift the world’s focus from Vancouver to Sochi, the southwestern Russia town that is set to host the 2014 games.

Instead, the Russian team had their worst performance in the history of the Olympic games, finishing sixth with only 15 medals, including just three golds. This came after the 2006 Turin Olympics, where the Russians had 22 total medals and eight golds.

Fallout from 2010

As a result of the disappointing performance, the Russian Olympic team has undergone intense scrutiny to figure out what has gone wrong, and this controversy has cast a dark cloud over preparations for the 2014 games. President Medvedev has even gotten directly involved, calling for the resignation of those responsible for the Russian team’s woes.

After all, Russia has historically been one of the top-performing countries in the winter Olympics, and the republic has taken great pride in its skill in winter sports. As a result, the country routinely sinks millions in the training and preparation of its winter athletes. Given this large investment, they simply expect to win. This has Russian athletes, coaches, and Olympics organizers asking difficult questions about their approach to the games, and the pressure to succeed in 2014 is massive.

With Russia redeem itself in Sochi?

To make matters worse, the preparations in Sochi have been troubled. Former President Putin pulled out all the stops to bring the Olympics to the city, even though it is one of the few locations in Russia that hardly gets any snow, and it had no existing infrastructure for large sporting events. Putin has spun this fact by saying that the lack of existing venues gives them the chance to construct modern, cutting-edge facilities to meet the needs of the world stage. But huge budgets, environmental concerns, and allegations of corruption seem to perpetually dog the preparations.

In the end, the only thing that can truly redeem Russia’s Olympic team is a strong performance. Some in the country worry that all this focus on Sochi preparation will cause the actual athletes to get short-changed, but at the same time, the Russians are likely to benefit from the significant home-field advantage that tends to go along with the Winter Olympics. Only time will tell.

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