11 Things You Might Not Know About the Winter Olympics - NBC Southern California
Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

Follow All The Winter Olympics Action Feb. 6-24 on NBC

11 Things You Might Not Know About the Winter Olympics

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    We could probably write a book about the ins and outs of the Olympics — it's a unique event, especially the winter version. Instead, however, check out the answers to 11 burning questions as the Olympics get underway.

    What is the super-G?
    This race, along with the downhill, is classified as a speed event in Alpine skiing. It’s essentially a longer and faster version of the giant slalom. Designed to combine the speed of the downhill with the giant slalom’s technical aspects, the super-G made its Olympic debut in 1988.

    What does Nordic combined combine?
    Nordic combined consists of two events: Cross-country skiing and ski jumping. Within the discipline there are the normal hill, large hill and team events. The first two include one ski jump and a 10km cross-country race, while the team event has four skiers jump and then participate in a 4x5km cross-country relay.

    Why do curlers yell?
    Curling certainly has its quirks, from the funny pants (read: the Norwegians) to the brooms. But what’s with the yelling? After the skip (the team captain) releases each stone, he communicates to his sweepers on when to brush the ice. Sweeping makes the stone go faster and can even alter its course.

    Where did biathlon come from?
    Biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing and rifle-shooting, has its roots in Scandinavia. For centuries, hunters in the snow-covered corners of the Earth had to strap on a pair of skis, sling a rifle over their shoulders and head out to provide their family with food. In more recent history, military forces would deploy on skis in Sweden and Norway. Biathlon became an official Olympic sport in 1960.

    Do figure skaters ever get dizzy with all those spins?
    Newer skaters experience dizziness, which is why their coaches limit them to one or two revolutions when they spin. But elite and more experienced skaters are able to keep their balance and ward off dizzy spells by focusing on a fixed point when a spin ends. Since that’s not a foolproof solution, though, they often add a dance move of some sort — a jump, for example — after the spin to bridge them over to relative stillness. Like anything else, it’s all about practice.

    Why do skiers wear tight outfits?
    Alpine skiing is not a fashion contest, although gear designers come out with some pretty stylish stuff these days. These athletes, like swimmers, speed skaters, swimmers and cyclists, must be as aerodynamic as possible when they hit the slopes. The suits worn by top skiers these days are slippery, in that they create hardly any wind drag. They’re also seamless, which helps the skiers cruise down the mountain at speeds of 80 MPH and above.

    How high off the ground do ski jumpers get?
    Believe it or not, ski jumpers are never more than about 20 feet above the ground once they leave the ramp. The curve of the slope is similar to the in-run, so that as the jumpers are flying down the hill, the ground is never too far away.

    How do bobsledders train in the summer?
    Bobsled athletes must have strong legs and fast-twitching muscles to push their sled at the start of their run. When there’s no snow, they train on a push track. On a push track, a bobsled with wheels fits into a metal track, and the athletes work on pushing the sled as fast as possible.

    What are clap skates?
    Clap skates are what long-track speed skaters wear. The blades are longer than those on typical skates, and only the front of the blade is attached to the boot. That construction lets the blade stay on the ice longer, letting the skater get the maximum forward momentum out of each stride. As for the name? Once the rear portion of the hinged blade snaps back into place, it makes a “clap” sound.

    Clap skates are used only in long-track events, however. They aren't used in short track events because of safety reasons, since athletes race closer together and in large groups.

    How tall is a halfpipe?
    At its highest point, the halfpipe used for snowboarding and freestyle skiing is 22 feet tall. In case you were wondering, in Sochi, the top of the pipe stands at about 3,600 feet above seal level, giving them a pretty great view, even if they are upside down.

    How did the Olympics end up in Sochi?
    The bidding process for hosting the 2014 Winter Games officially started in 2005, when the potential cities had to submit their applications to the International Olympic Committee.

    Of the three cities in the final bidding process — Pyeongchang, South Korea; Salzburg, Austria; and Sochi — Sochi received 34 votes in the first round of voting and then 51 in the second to win the Games on July 4, 2007. Salzburg was eliminated after the first round of voting, and then Sochi edged Pyeongchang, 51 to 47, in the decisive vote.