Thursday, February 6, 2014

Mongolia and New Zealand first countries officially welcomed into Sochi 2014 Olympic Village

February 2 - Athletes from Mongolia and New Zealand have become the first to be officially welcomed into the Olympic Village here his morning.

In a parade which will be experienced by all athletes over the next five days ahead of the Opening Ceremony on Friday (February 7), the national flag of each participating country is raised following a "Guard of Honour" procession into the Village.

The welcoming Ceremony will include key members of each National Olympic Committees as well as Village officials, while a cultural entertainment programme orchestrated by local television presenter Alexandr Anatolievicha, along with contenders from the reality talent show Clash of the Choirs will be another highlight.

Although neither are Olympic powerhouses, New Zealand's team in Sochi will be confident of securing their first Winter Olympic medal since slalom skier Annelise Coberger became the first ever Southern Hemisphere medallist at Albertville 1992.

They are sending 15 athletes competing across five sports this time around, with the brothers Jossi, Byron and Beau-James Wells in the freestyle skiing events expected to lead the way, while Mongolia will be represented by two cross-country skiers.
Athletes from Japan, Belgium and the Philippines will also be welcomed into the Athletes Village today while the host nation Russia are due to be greeted on Wednesday (February 5).

All competitors, guests and residents of the Olympic Villages will also be given a Sochi 2014 souvenir in the form of a pair of gloves - billed as "a warm memento of the Winter Games which will keep the athletes cozy in any weather."

With the Games now less than a week away athletes from all over the world have been arriving in Sochi over recent days as the atmosphere - still predominantly relaxed and low key in the Olympic clusters - begins to build.

Ahead of chairing today's International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board Meeting, President Thomas Bach has also been mingling and meeting athletes before what will be his first Games at the helm of the Movement.
Despite the build-up being clouded by various concerns - including both security and human-rights - reactions from athletes as they arrive in Sochi have been generally positive so far.

This was illustrated by the British short-track speed skating team after they trained at the the Iceberg arena for the first time, with squad member Charlotte Gilmartin describing the venue to the BBC as "incredible, with lights so bright, and cameras everywhere."

The only problem, reported by the team's leading medal hope in European champion Elise Christie, is the long walk from the Athletes Village to the venue - which currently takes around an hour.

Contact the writer of this story at nick.butler@insidethegames.biz

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