Speed Skating Records – What Not to Look For at Sochi

Will there be any world records set in speed skating at Sochi, referring to long-track? Probably not. How about Olympic records? Maybe, but not a lot, if any. Why is that? Because much more so than athletics (track & field) and swimming, long-track speed skating records are almost entirely dependent on the oval where one is skating.

Speed skating ovals used to always be outdoor rinks, but on 17 November 1986 the first two indoor ovals opened – the Berlin Hohenschönhausen in East Berlin, and the Dutch rink Thialf at Heerenveen. In 1988 the Calgary Winter Olympics had an indoor oval used for speed skating for the first time at the Olympics. In 1992 the Albertville rink was outdoors, once again, but since 1994, when the speed skating events were contested at the Vikingskipet in Hamar (near Lillehammer), all Olympic speed skating ovals have been indoors on artificial ice. The weather was quite poor at Albertville and after the 1992 Winter Olympics, the ISU mandated that Olympic ovals had to be indoors.

Prior to 1986 world records were routinely set at only a few ovals, for various reasons. One is that many of the major competitions were contested there, such as at Davos, Switzerland, or Inzell, West Germany. The other is that certain rinks were renowned for having good ice conditions. The absolute speed factory among outdoor rinks was the Medeo oval at Alma-Ata (now Almaty), Kazakhstan, in the former Soviet Union. Not only was Medeo known for good ice, it was at very high altitude (1,691 m), lessening the wind resistance, and in addition, Medeo was in a valley, and seemed to often have following winds that circled completely around the oval at all-times, making all marks seem wind-aided.

But once indoor rinks came into being, almost all world records have been set there. And further, they have been set primarily in two places – Calgary and Salt Lake City. The reason is two-fold. Both are known for excellent ice, but they are also at altitude, with both over 1,000 metres in elevation – Salt Lake City is slightly higher at 1,288 m to Calgary’s 1,045 m. Since the Salt Lake City oval opened in 2001, many all the world records have been set there.

Let’s look at the numbers, by Olympic event:

Men

500      last 10 WR at Calgary/SLC – 13 of the last 16 since 1988, the last four at SLC

1,000    last 20 WR at Calgary/SLC – 21 of the last 23 since 1988, the last six at SLC

1,500    last 12 WR at Calgary/SLC going back to 1998

5K        last 8 WR at Calgary/SLC going back to 1998

10K      a bit different with 4 Calgary and 3 Salt Lake City WRs, out of 13 since 1987

Women

500      last 19 WR at Calgary/SLC – 14 at Calgary and 5 at SLC, going back to 1987

1,000    last 14 WR at Calgary/SLC – 10 at Calgary and 4 at SLC, going back to 1987

1,500    9 of 10 WR at Calgary/SLC – 6 at Calgary and 3 at SLC, going back to 1997

3K        10 of 14 WR at Calgary/SLC – 9 at Calgary and 1 at SLC, going back to 1987

5K        7 of 12 WR at Calgary/SLC – 3 at Calgary and last 4 at SLC, going back to 1988

The anomaly in the above was the women’s 1,500 record with Karin Kania-Enke’s mark of 1:59.30 from 22 March 1986 lasting for 11 years – until 29 November 1997. But it was set at Medeo. You can also see that the effect is more pronounced in the shorter races, where the decreased air resistance of altitude is more effective. In the longer races, the oxygen debt takes over.

So what about Sochi? The Adler Arena opened in 2012 and hosted the 2013 Single-Distance World Championships. But Adler Arena is at the Coastal Cluster by the Black Sea, at an altitude of about 65 metres. Any world record set here will be an impressive performance. Here are the Sochi oval records compared to the current world records (as 1 January 2014):

Men

Sochi

500        Jan Smeekens (NED)                      34.80

1,000    Denis Kuzin (KAZ)                       1:09.14

1,500    Denis Yuskov (RUS)                    1:46.32

5K          Sven Kramer (NED)                     6:14.41

10K       Jorrit Bergsma (NED)             12:57.69

World Record                                               Site              Year

500        Jeremy Wotherspoon (CAN)     34.03   Salt Lake      2007

1,000    Shani Davis (USA)                        1:06.42   Salt Lake      2009

1,500    Shani Davis (USA)                        1:41.04   Salt Lake      2009

5K          Sven Kramer (NED)                     6:03.32   Calgary         2007

10K       Sven Kramer (NED)                 12:41.69   Salt Lake      2007

 

Women

Sochi

500         Lee Sang-Hwa (KOR)                  37.65

1,000    Olga Fatkulina (RUS)               1:15.44

1,500    Ireen Wüst (NED)                     1:55.38

3K          Ireen Wüst (NED)                     4:02.43

5K          Martina Sábliková (CZE)       6:54.31

World Record                                               Site              Year

500        Lee Sang-Hwa (KOR)                 36.36   Salt Lake      2013

1,000    Brittany Bowe (USA)             1:12.58   Salt Lake      2013

1,500    Cindy Klassen (CAN)             1:51.79   Salt Lake      2005

3K          Cindy Klassen (CAN)              3:53.34   Calgary         2006

5K          Martina Sábliková (CZE)       6:42.66   Salt Lake      2011

Two things are immediately apparent from that list. The Sochi marks, set at a World Championship, are not close to the world records, in any event, and every current world record has been set at either Calgary or Salt Lake City.

Even comparing the Sochi records to Olympic records, Sochi comes out behind usually.

Men

Sochi

500        Jan Smeekens (NED)                      34.80

1,000    Denis Kuzin (KAZ)                       1:09.14

1,500    Denis Yuskov (RUS)                    1:46.32

5K          Sven Kramer (NED)                     6:14.41

10K       Jorrit Bergsma (NED)             12:57.69

Olympic Record                                            Site              Year

500        Casey FitzRandolph (USA)       34.42   Salt Lake      2002

1,000    Gerard van Velde (NED)        1:07.18   Salt Lake      2002

1,500    Derek Parra (USA)                    1:43.95   Salt Lake       2002

5K          Sven Kramer (NED)                  6:14.60   Vancouver    2010

10K       Lee Seung-Hun (KOR)          12:58.55   Vancouver    2010

 

Women

Sochi

500        Lee Sang-Hwa (KOR)                 37.65

1,000    Olga Fatkulina (RUS)            1:15.44

1,500    Ireen Wüst (NED)                  1:55.38

3K          Ireen Wüst (NED)                   4:02.43

5K         Martina Sábliková (CZE)      6:54.31

Olympic Record                                            Site              Year

500        Catriona Le May Doan (CAN)   37.30   Salt Lake      2002

1,000    Chris Witty (USA)                       1:13.83   Salt Lake      2002

1,500    Anni Friesinger (GER)              1:54.02   Salt Lake      2002

3K          Claudia Pechstein (GER)         3:57.70   Salt Lake      2002

5K          Claudia Pechstein (GER)         6:46.91   Salt Lake      2002

So don’t look for too many speed skating records at Sochi. Which ones are vulnerable for Olympic marks? The men’s 10K is at high risk – Sven Kramer skated 12:46.96 earlier in 2013 at Heerenveen (sea level), the second fastest time ever, and then bettered that at the Dutch trials at Heerenveen, with 12:45.08 on 28 December 2013. Lee Sang-Hwa could also better Le May Doan’s 500 mark, and Casey FitzRandolph’s men’s 500 is at risk.

Malta joins the 49ers

Shortly before Christmas the French born Alpine skier Elise Pelegrin qualified for the Sochi Winter Olympics. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal but Pelegrin has Maltese ancestry and elected to compete for Malta at the beginning of the 2012-2013 season.  Out of 49  European nations currently affiliated with the IOC, Malta is the only one yet to make an appearance at the Winter Games. Barring unforeseen circumstances this will change in February and, for the first time, all the eligible European countries will be present in Sochi.

Of the 16 nations that competed at the inaugural Winter Olympics in 1924 fourteen were European including powerhouse nations Austria and Norway but also lesser lights like Belgium and Hungary.

Germany, banned from the Games following World War I, debuted alongside the Netherlands in 1928 and more Mediterranean nations followed in 1936.  A slow trickle of new nations followed post-WW2 until the changes in Eastern Europe saw the emergence into Olympic competition of a flood of ex-Soviet and ex-Yugoslav nations from 1992 onwards.

European nations to compete at the Winter Olympics are, in order of debut;

1924 – Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Yugoslavia.

1928 – Estonia, Germany, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania

1936 – Bulgaria, Spain, Greece, Liechtenstein, Turkey

1948 – Denmark, Iceland

1952 – Portugal

1956 – Soviet Union

1968 – West Germany, East Germany

1976 – Andorra, San Marino

1980 – Cyprus

1984 – Monaco

1992 – Croatia, Ireland, Slovenia

1994 – Armenia, Georgia, Czech Republic, Israel, Moldova, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Bosnia

1998 – Azerbaijan, Serbia and Montenegro, FYR Macedonia,

2006 – Albania

2010 – Serbia, Montenegro

2014 –  Malta

Outside the mainstream nations cross-country skiers from Greenland regularly compete for Denmark and a snowboarder from the Isle of Man has represented Great Britain.

Will there be any additions to this list? That depends on politics. The next debutants might be Kosovo? Or Scotland? Perhaps the Basque Country or Catalonia? We’ll just have to wait and see – although the clever bet is that it might be a while before we see a snowboarder from the Vatican City nailing a Rippey flip at the Olympics.

Most Winter Olympic Appearances

Todd Lodwick recently qualified for his 6th US Olympic team in Nordic combined. He will become the first American to compete at 6 Winter Olympics, although that only ties the record held by 16 men and 4 women. The lists for most appearances at the Winter Olympics by men and women are as follows, with the US records at the bottom of each list.

Note that of the 5 men and 1 woman who competed in their 6th Winter Olympics at Vancouver in 2010, we expect two of them to compete in Sochi to set a record with their 7th Winter Olympic appearance – Albert Demchenko of Russia in luge and Noriaki Kasai of Japan in ski jumping.

Appearances – Men, Winter

6           Carl-Erik Eriksson (SWE-BOB; 1964/68/72/76/80/84)

6           Colin Coates (AUS-SSK; 1968/72/76/80/84/88)

6           Alfred Eder (AUT-BIA; 1976/80/84/88/92/94)

6           Jochen Behle (FRG/GER-CCS; 1980/84/88/92/94/98)

6           Harri Kirvesniemi (FIN-CCS; 1980/84/88/92/94/98)

6           Mike Dixon (GBR-BIA/CCS; 1984/88/92/94/98/02)

6           Raimo Helminen (FIN-ICH; 1984/88/92/94/98/02)

6           Markus Prock (AUT-LUG; 1984/88/92/94/98/02)

6           Sergey Chepikov (EUN/RUS/URS-BIA/CCS; 1988/92/94/98/02/06)

6           Georg Hackl (FRG/GER-LUG; 1988/92/94/98/02/06)

6           Wilfried Huber (ITA-LUG; 1988/92/94/98/02/06)

6           Ilmārs Bricis (LAT-BIA; 1992/94/98/02/06/10)

6           Marco Büchel (LIE-ASK; 1992/94/98/02/06/10)

6           Andrus Veerpalu (EST-CCS; 1992/94/98/02/06/10)

6           Albert Demchenko (EUN/RUS-LUG; 1992/94/98/02/06/10)

6           Noriaki Kasai (JPN-SKJ; 1992/94/98/02/06/10)

5           Brian Shimer (BOB; 1988/92/94/98/02)

5           Casey Puckett (ASK/FRS; 1992/94/98/02/10)

5           Mark Grimmette (LUG; 1994/98/02/06/10)

5           Todd Lodwick (NCO; 1994/98/02/06/10)

4           Jim Bickford, Jr. (BOB; 1936/48/52/56)

4           Larry Damon (BIA/CCS; 1956/60/64/68)

4           Tim Caldwell (CCS; 1972/76/80/84)

4           Bill Koch (CCS; 1976/80/84/92)

4           Lyle Nelson (BIA; 1976/80/84/88)

4           Brent Rushlaw (BOB; 1976/80/84/88)

4           Chris Chelios (ICH; 1984/98/02/06)

4           Dan Jansen (SSK; 1984/88/92/94)

4           Eric Flaim (SSK/STK; 1988/92/94/98)

4           A J Kitt (ASK; 1988/92/94/98)

4           Chris Thorpe (LUG; 1992/94/98/02)

4           Keith Tkachuk (ICH; 1992/98/02/06)

4           Eric Bergoust (FRS; 1994/98/02/06)

4           KC Boutiette (SSK; 1994/98/02/06)

4           Daron Rahlves (ASK/FRS; 1998/02/06/10)

4           Bode Miller (ASK; 1998/02/06/10)

4           Jay Hakkinen (BIA; 1998/02/06/10)

4           Bill Demong (NCO; 1998/02/06/10)

4           Brian Martin (LUG; 1998/02/06/10)

 

Appearances – Women, Winter

6           Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi-Hämäläinen (FIN-CCS; 1976/80/84/88/92/94)

6           Emese Nemeth-Hunyady (AUT/HUN-SSK; 1984/88/92/94/98/02)

6           Gerda Weissensteiner (ITA-BOB/LUG; 1988/92/94/98/02/06)

6           Anna Orlova (LAT-LUG; 1992/94/98/02/06/10)

5           24 women tied with 4 appearances.

4           Mary Docter (SSK; 1980/84/88/92)

4           Bonnie Blair (SSK; 1984/88/92/94)

4           Cammy Myler (LUG; 1988/92/94/98)

4           Ann Battelle (FRS; 1992/94/98/02)

4           Nina Kemppel (CCS; 1992/94/98/02)

4           Amy Peterson (STK; 1992/94/98/02)

4           Chris Witty (SSK; 1994/98/02/06)

4           Jennifer Rodriguez (SSK; 1998/02/06/10)

4           Catherine Raney Norman (SSK; 1998/02/06/10)

4           Sarah Schleper (ASK; 1998/02/06/10)

4           Angela Ruggiero (ICH; 1998/02/06/10)

4           Jenny Schmidgall-Potter (ICH; 1998/02/06/10)

 

Short-track / long-track speed skating doubles

Earlier today, Dutch skater Jorien ter Mors qualified for the Olympic 1,500 m in speed skating. Earlier, she had already made the team for all four short track events (500 m, 1,000 m, 1,500 m and relay). With this performance, Ter Mors joins a small group of 10 skaters that has competed in both sports at the Olympics. (Four of them only competed in the 1988 short-track tournament, which was then still a a demonstration sport. It gained full medal status in 1992.)

The most successful member of that group in both sports is Eric Flaim. The world allround long track champion in 1988, he won a silver at the Calgary Olympics in long track, adding another silver with the US short-track relay team in Lillehammer. Two other skaters have also medalled, but only in short-track. Maurizio Carnino has two relay medals in his collection (including the 1994 gold), just like Sylvie Daigle (who won gold in 1992).

Also remarkable is the performance of Latvian Haralds Silovs. At the Vancouver 2010 Games, he competed in both sports on the same day. After completing the 5,000 m in 20th place on the 400 m oval, he raced in the heats and semi-finals of the 1,500 m short-track on the 111 m piste.

The other skaters who competed in both sports are:

  • Dave Besteman (short: 1988 (demonstration), long: 1992-1994)
  • Robert Dubreuil (short: 1988 (demonstration), long: 1992)
  • Tara Laszlo (short: 1988 (demonstration), long: 1992)
  • Emmanuel Michon (short: 1988 (demonstration), long: 1976-1980)
  • Andrew Nicholson (short: 1992-1994, long: 1998)
  • Claude Nicouleau (long: 1988, short: 1992)

There are also other good skaters who have excelled in both sports, but not at the Olympics. Five-time Olympic champion Bonnie Blair was also the 1986 allround world champion in short-track, and two-fold gold medallist Gaétan Boucher of Canada was individual world champion in short-track in 1977 and 1980, and relay champion in 1979 and 1980. More recently, the 2010 Olympic champion 10,000 m, Lee Seung-Hun has won two world titles in short-track.

Winter Olympians from snowless nations

Competitors from snowless nations

Medals at the Winter Olympics are always won by athletes from countries that have snow. This makes sense: a boy from Austria is more likely to end up being an alpine skier than a boy from, say, Cuba. That doesn’t mean athletes from snowless countries aren’t trying to win medals at the Winter Olympics. The most famous may be the Jamaican bobsleigh team that competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics, as they were made immortal by the movie “Cool Runnings“. That team did not actually complete the competition, but in 1994 the four-man crew from Jamaica finished a respectable 14th (in a field of 30), which was then also the best performance by competitors from a snowless nation.

But the Jamaican bobbers are not the best Winter Olympians from a snowless nation. First, in Torino 2006, they were dethroned by a bobsleigh duo from Monaco. The Monegasque bob had traditionally been piloted by Prince Albert but Patrice Servelle and Jérémy Bottin did much better than their monarch had ever done, placing 12th. Jamaica regained the throne in 2010, however. The island’s first ever skier, Errol Kerr, place 9th in the inaugural version of the ski cross event, just missing the semi-finals.

In all, 23 snowless nations (or with occasional snow at best) have competed at the Winter Olympics. These are their best results:

1. Jamaica – Errol Kerr (Freestyle skiing, Ski cross, 2010) – 9th
2. Monaco – Patrice Servelle & Jérémy Bottin (Bobsleigh, Two, 2006) – 12th
3. US Virgin Islands – Anne Abernathy (Luge, Singles, 1988) – 16th
4. Hong Kong – Han Yue Shuang (Short track, 1,000 m, 2006) – 18th
5. Bermuda – Patrick Singleton (Skeleton, 2006) – 19th
6. Uruguay – Gabriel Hottegrindre (Alpine skiing, Slalom, 1998) – 24th
7. Puerto Rico – Liston Bochette, José Ferrer, Jorge Bonnet & Douglas Rosado (Bobsleigh, Four, 1994) – 25th
8. Netherlands Antilles – Bart Carpentier Alting & Bart Drechsel (Bobsleigh, Two, 1988) – 29th
9. Trinidad & Tobago – Gregory Sun & Curtis Harry (Bobsleigh, Two, 1998) – 32nd
10. Philippines – Raymund Ocampo (Luge, Singles, 1988) – 35th
11. American Samoa – Faauuga Muagututia & Brad Kiltz (Bobsleigh, Two, 1994) – 39th
12. Madagascar – Mathieu Razanakolona (Alpine skiing, Giant slalom, 2006) – 39th
13. British Virgin Islands – Erroll Fraser (Speed skating, 500 m, 1984) – 40th
14. Costa Rica – Arturo Kinch (Alpine skiing, Donhill, 1980) – 41st
15. Senegal – Lamien Guèye (Alpine skiing, Downhill, 1992) – 45th
16. Ghana – Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong (Alpine skiing, Slalom, 2010) – 47th
17. Honduras – Jenny Palacios-Stillo (Cross country skiing, 15 km, 1992) – 50th
18. Fiji – Laurence Thomas (Alpine skiing, Giant slalom, 2002) – 55th
19. Swaziland – Keith Fraser (Alpine skiing, Giant slalom, 1992) – 63rd
20. Cameroon – Isaac Menyoli (Cross country skiing, Sprint, 2002) – 65th
21. Thailand – Prawat Nagvajara (Cross country skiing, Sprint, 2002) – 66th
22. Cayman Islands – Dow Travers (Alpine skiing, Giant slalom, 2010) – 69th
23. Guam – Judd Bankert (Biathlon, 10 km, 1988) – 71st

(List of countries without snow was taken from here.)

Of course, not all of these athletes grew up in a snowless country.  Mathieu Razanakolona, for example, grew up in Canada but competed for Madagascar on account of his Malagasy father, while Erroll Fraser and Anne Abernathy were both born in the US.

The list of snowless countries competing at the Winter Olympics will likely expand in Sochi. Countries without snowfall that will possibly début in 2014 are Eritrea, Malta, Paraguay, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga and Zimbabwe.

Maki Tabata

It was announced this week that Maki Tabata has made the Japanese speed skating team for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. If you haven’t heard of you, you should have. Her Olympic medal haul contains but a single silver medal, that won in the team pursuit at Vancouver in 2010, but she holds several other Olympic bests, one coming with her being named to the 2014 Olympic roster.

In 2010 Tabata’s silver medal came 16 years after she first appeared in the Olympics, in 1994 at Lillehammer. She missed the 1998 Winter Olympics but competed again in 2002 and 2006. She competed in the 1,500 in 1994, four individual events in 2002, and five events in 2006, including the team pursuit. Her best individual finish was sixth in the 2002 3,000 metres, with a podium near-miss of fourth in the 2006 team pursuit. But Tabata’s 2010 medal set a best for women – her 16-year gap from début to first Winter Olympic medal is the longest unrequited span of Winter Olympic participation for women without a medal.

Among men, the record is 20 years by Belgium bobsledder Max Houben, who first competed in 1928 and then won his first medal in 1948. Houben can actually claim 28 years – he actually competed at the Olympics in 1920 in athletics (track & field). Houben is trailed among male Winter Olympians by ice hockey players Jari Kurri (FIN), who first competed in 1980 and won his first medal in 1998, and American Chris Chelios, who went from 1984-2002 before winning an Olympic medal. The summer record for men is 36 years by Canadian equestrian Ian Millar, who first competed in 1972 and won his first medal in 2008. For women, Danish equestrian Anne Jensen-van Olst went 20 years at the Summer Games before winning a medal – 1988-2008.

But Tabata will soon have another record, though she may share it with others. When she competes in Sochi it will make her span of Olympic participation 20 years (1994-2014) – the longest ever for women at the Winter Olympics. The current best is 18 years, held by seven female Winter Olympians. Tabata is now at 16 years, tying her for 8th-best with 13 others. However, Tabata and 11 others competed at Vancouver, so she may end up sharing this record , as final Olympic rosters are not yet complete. The men’s record, incidentally, is 26 years at the Winter Olympics – held by Costa Rican Arturo Kinch, a skiier who competed from 1980-2006, and the magnificently named Mexican alpine skiier Hubertus von Fürstenberg-von Hohenlohe, who competed from 1984-2010.

Olympic-Related Sites

The best site for statistical information on the web is at http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/. You should bookmark it and use it frequently during Sochi for information on what has gone before.

Yes, I do have something to do with it. The site is work done by me and a group of my associates who we call the OlyMADMen – there are about a dozen of us, led by Jeroen Heijmans (NED), Arild Gjerde (NOR), and Hilary Evans(GBR/Wales) (and Hilary is actually James Hilary Evans, to clear that up). Other main contributors to the site are Taavi Kalju (EST), Wolf Reinhardt (GER), Martin Kellner (AUT), Ralf Regnitter (GER), Paul Tchir (CAN), Ralph Schlüter (GER), Mørten Aarlia Torp (NOR), Magne Teigen (NOR), and David Foster (GBR). A few other Olympic stat freaks also help us out – Christian Tugnoli (ITA), Ove Karlsson (SWE), Stein Opdahl (NOR), Carl-Johan Johansson (SWE), Paweł Wudarski (POL), and others.

sports-reference.com/olympics is based on our own private website, which we use as our research site – its located at www.olympedia.org. Sorry, but for now it’s a private site, but we can allow you access if you want it – just send us an email (bill1729@gmail.com) or post your email below. You’ll love it, I promise you, if you like the Olympics. Olympedia and sports-reference are similar, but different. Information goes on Olympedia first and gets picked up by sports-reference later, after some editing.

Other sites you should know about:

www.olympic.org – the main IOC site

www.teamusa.org – the main US Olympic Committee site

www.sochi2014.com – the main site for the Sochi Organizing Committee – all athlete bios and results eventually will be on here

www.insidethegames.biz – lots of good stuff, updated daily, follow at @insidethegames

olympictalk.nbcsports.com/author/nzaccardi86 – NBC’s main web guy Nick Zaccardi adds new stuff daily, follow at @nzaccardi

www.chicagotribune.com/sports/globetrotting – Phil Hersh, US best known Olympic-beat writer, keeps tabs on everything in international sport, follow at @olyphil

www.3wiresports.com/author/alan-abrahamson – Alan Abrahamson, former LA Times Olympic-beat writer, follows the Olympic Movement closely, follow at @alanabrahamson

frontierbeaver.com/sports – a blog by Ollie Williams, a bit British oriented but covers all Olympic sports and nations, follow at @OllieW

http://espn.go.com/olympics – Bonnie Ford keeps us up-to-date even if ESPN doesn’t usually know about any sports other than the NFL – but Bonnie does, follow at @Bonnie_D_Ford

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/olympics – although Sports Illustrated suffers from the ESPN-virus of NFL-only at times, look for anything by Tim Layden, who knows his stuff, follow at @SITimLayden

www.aroundtherings.com – Around the Rings, led by Ed Hula, focuses on the Olympic Movement – this is a pay-site – follow at @EHula_ATR

www.gamesbids.com – information about the bidding process and host cities – can be of some interest

Sochi – the Site

The XXII Olympic Winter Games (the official title) will be held in Sochi, Russia, a resort on the Black Sea in the southern part of Russia, a little east of the Crimean Peninsula. Much has been made of Sochi as a Winter Olympic site, with critics saying it is too warm, too far south, and more a summer resort than a winter one. So let’s look at some numbers – after all, that’s what I do.

Is Sochi the southernmost site for a Winter Olympics? Nope, in fact, four other sites have been located at more southerly latitudes than Sochi, as follows:

Year     City                         NOC      Latitude (N)

1998     Nagano               JPN        36°-38′

1960     Squaw Valley   USA       39°-11′

2002     Salt Lake City  USA       40°-45′

1972     Sapporo              JPN        43°-04′

2014     Sochi                     RUS       43°-35′

Lillehammer (1994) was the northernmost Winter Olympic host city, at 61°-07′, followed by Oslo (1952) at 59°-57′.

Is Sochi at the lowest altitude of any Winter Olympic host city? Not really, although this depends on your approach to defining altitude. Most cities have a “base” altitude, and using this, Sochi is higher up than Vancouver was in 2010 – Vancouver’s base altitude on the Pacific Ocean was 0. Here are the lowest base altitudes for Olympic Winter host cities:

Year     City                        NOC      Altitude (m)

2010     Vancouver         CAN                       0

1972     Sapporo              JPN                      19

1952     Oslo                      NOR                     23

2014     Sochi                    RUS                      65

1994     Lillehammer    NOR                  208

The highest elevations for Winter Olympic hosts were Squaw Valley, California (USA) (1960) at 1,900 metres (6,235 feet) and Saint Moritz (SUI) (1928/48) at 1,822 metres (5,980 feet).

Remember, however, that Sochi has two separate sets of sites – the Coastal Cluster, by the Black Sea, and the Mountain Cluster, in the western Caucasus Mountains, near Krasnaya Polyana. Krasnaya Polyana has a base elevation of 560 metres (1,840 feet), with the mountains rising to 2,320 metres (7,610 feet).

So is Sochi the warmest site ever for a Winter Olympics. Basically, yes, but not by all that much, and for those of you who remember the Spring Olympics in Vancouver (so-called by Shaun White), Sochi’s temperature, down by the Black Sea, is about the same.

Year     City                      NOC        Feb Mean Temp (C° / F°)

2014     Sochi                  RUS                     6° / 43°

2010     Vancouver      CAN                     5° / 41°

1992     Albertville       FRA                      5° / 41°

2006     Torino                ITA                        4° / 39°

1924     Chamonix        FRA                      4° / 39°

1968     Grenoble          FRA                      3° / 37°

The coldest sites for Winter Olympics were Lillehammer (NOR) (1994) and Lake Placid, New York (USA) (1932/80) where the average February temperature is about -9° C. or 17° F. So its safe to say Sochi will not be the coolest ever Winter Olympic site.

Other critics of Sochi have said that the site is too small for a modern Winter Olympics, and that too much of it has had to be built from scratch. While it is true that huge amounts of infrastructure has been required to make Sochi an Olympic city, as a host site, its not that small. Here are the populations of Winter Olympic host cities currently, and in the year in which they hosted:

Year     City                       NOC     Pop (2013)    Pop (OlyYr)

1972     Sapporo             JPN       1,918,000        1,150,000

2006     Torino                  ITA            912,000           857,000

1988     Calgary               CAN     1,097,000           650,000

2010     Vancouver        CAN         603,500           603,500

1984     Sarajevo             BIH           438,000           448,000

1952     Oslo                     NOR         629,000           447,000

1998     Nagano              JPN           387,000           356,000

2014     Sochi                   RUS           343,000           343,000

And nothing compares to the two United States’ host cities. Lake Placid, New York had a population of 2,950 in 1932 and 2,490 in 1980, while Squaw Valley, California barely existed in 1960, with a population for that site generously estimated at 300, by David Antonucci, author of a book on the 1960 Winter Olympics (Snowball’s Chance: The Story of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games).

And if you think Sochi needs to build infrastructure when Squaw Valley was selected as host city in June 1955, it didn’t exist. Antonucci thinks only two families actually lived in what was to become Squaw Valley. But it was a different time.

Rumors abound that Sochi is costing $51 billion (US) for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Is that a record? Stay tuned – more to come.

Hello Olympic World

For those of you who know me, you realize I’ve been obsessed by the Olympics and Olympic Stats for almost 50 years now. For those who don’t, you’ll soon find out.

I’ve been able to write almost 25 books on the Olympics Games – you can find many of them on Amazon, mostly dealing with the history of the Olympics, books such as Historical Dictionary of the Olympic Movement (with Ian Buchanan and later with Jeroen Heijmans), The Golden Book of the Olympic Games (with Erich Kamper), a series of books on the early Olympic Games, from 1896-1920, and my first book, also done with Ian Buchanan, with Quest for Gold: The Encyclopedia of American Olympians.

In 1991, along with Buchanan, Kamper, Ture Widlund, David Wallechinsky, Stan Greenberg, Ove Karlsson, and others, we formed the International Society of Olympic Historians (ISOH) – you can check us out here – http://www.isoh.org/. We met at a pub in the Knightsbridge section of London, the Duke of Clarence, although the pub no longer exists, and formed the society on a cold, rainy London December day. ISOH has since grown to almost 500 members world-wide, with a very nice journal, the Journal of Olympic History, for which I was the first editor, from 1991-96 – now edited by Volker Kluge, pre-eminent German Olympic historian. I also had the privilege of serving as the second President of ISOH, from 2000-2004, following Ian Buchanan. The current President is David Wallechinsky, author of the great book, The Complete Book of the Olympics, which has had a new edition after Olympic Games since 1984.

So come along for the ride – I’ll be posting lots of Olympic information in the run-up to Sochi 2014. If you want to follow me on Twitter, its @bambam1729, and on my tweets, I’ll keep everyone informed when I’ve put new material here on OlympStats. During Sochi, I’ll be posting new historical and statistical data several times a day, always updating via Twitter. Welcome aboard.

Bill Mallon MD