Winter Olympics - Idiot's guide to the Winter Olympics

Fri, 12 Feb 07:37:00 2010

The 21st Winter Olympics gets under way today. If you don't know your biathlon from your biafra or think a double McTwist 1260 is a milk shake, then check out our beginners guide to the Games.

SNOWBOARD Maciej Jodko - 0

Where is it?

Canada - the 2010 Winter Olympics will be the third Olympics that Canada has hosted but the first in the province of British Columbia.

Vancouver and its surrounding suburbs host the venues for the opening and closing ceremonies, ice hockey, speed skating, curling, figure skating, freestyle and snowboard competitions.

Whistler, some 125km north of Vancouver, has the venues for Alpine skiing, Nordic events, biathlon, ski jumping, bobsleigh, luge and skeleton competitions.

How many countries are involved?

Around 5500 athletes from 82 countries - Ghana, Bahamas, Gabon and the Cayman Islands will make their Winter Olympic debut.

Britain have a team of 52 competing in 11 of the 15 sports.

How many events are there?

86 gold medals are up for grabs in 15 sports.

The eight sports categorised as ice sports are: bobsleigh, luge, skeleton, ice hockey, figure skating, speed skating, short track speed skating and curling.

The four sports categorized as Nordic events are: biathlon, cross country skiing, ski jumping and nordic combined.

The three other sports are: alpine skiing, freestyle and snowboarding.

What's new?

Two new medal events have been added for the first time to the Winter Olympic Games. They are the men's and women's ski cross, which is a ski race of a group of four skiers on a special downhill course.

Didn't the Winter Olympics used to be in the same year as the Summer Olympics?

Yes, the Winter and Summer Games were celebrated in the same year from 1924 until 1992. At that time the Winter Games split from the Summer Games, and were begun to be celebrated on alternating even years. The first Winter Olympic Games to be held on this new schedule was in 1994 in Lillehammer.

Who will win?

Germany has won the most medals at each of the last three Winter Olympics while Norway has won the most medals at the Winter Games. When Vancouver won the right to host the 2010 Winter Games, the Canadian government and corporate sponsors poured $110 million into 'Own the Podium', an ambitious program with the objective of putting Canada top of the Vancouver medal table.

Russia and Austria are also strong while the US dominate in freestyle skiing and snowboarding (where one of the new moves is a double McTwist 1260), Korea and China have a monopoly on short track speed skating, and long track speed skating is a national obsession in the Netherlands.

Will Britain win any medals?

Team GB's winter athletes won four medals - two gold and two silver - at the World Championships in 2009 to place 14th in the relative medal table.

Gold medals were claimed by men's curling and women's two-man bobsleigh, supported by a pair of silver medals in skeleton.

Is Eddie the Eagle competing?

No, but an Ethiopian who learned to ski at boarding school in upstate New York, Canada's Brian McKeever who is legally blind and will become the first athlete to compete in both a Winter Olympics and a Paralympics, and a Ghanian dubbed the 'Snow Leopard' who was introduced to snow after landing a job as a receptionist at an indoor snow arena in Milton Keynes, are amongst the interesting stories in this year's entries.

When is it?

The opening ceremony is at 2am with the closing ceremony on February 28. Action runs from around 1700 GMT each night to 0730 in the morning. British Eurosport are covering the Winter Olympics 24/7 on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521), Eurosport HD (412) and it's all on your PC via the Eurosport Player.

Lee Walker / Eurosport

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