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Q: Where will the next Olympics be held?
Photo of the waterfront and harbor of Sochi, Russia.

Photo by John Morn, /Flickr Creative Commons.

The host city for the 2014 Winter Olympics is known for its spectacular scenery and pleasant climate.

Seven cities sought the honor of hosting the next Olympics, which will be held in the winter of 2014. Those cities were Almaty (Kazakhstan), Borjomi (Georgia), Jaca (Spain), Pyeongchang (South Korea), Salzburg (Austria), Sochi (Russia), and Sofia (Bulgaria).

All of these cities are located in either Europe or Asia. Two of them — Borjomi and Sochi — lie near the traditional dividing line between the two continents, which runs through the Caucasus Mountains.

After reviewing the applications submitted by the seven cities, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced in June of 2006 that it had selected three finalists: Pyeongchang, Salzburg, and Sochi.

The IOC studied the bids submitted by the three cities and sent representatives to evaluate the proposed sites. Then, in July of 2007, the committee made its decision: the host city would be Sochi.

You have perhaps never heard of Sochi, but the city is as well known to Russians as places such as Miami Beach and Disney World are to Americans, and for similar reasons. 

Sochi is located on the shore of the Black Sea in the southernmost part of Russia, near the border with the country of Georgia. (Find the Black Sea on the Russia Political Map. It lies at along the left-hand edge of the map.) Just east of the city rise the lofty Caucasus Mountains.

The city sits at the heart of Russia’s largest resort area, which is known as Greater Sochi. The area stretches along the shore for roughly 90 miles. It has been nicknamed the Russian Riviera after the famous coastal resort area in France.

Sochi enjoys a warm, subtropical climate. In the summer, the average temperature is 75° F during the day and 61° F at night. Winters are mild, with temperatures ranging from 52° F during the day to 39° F at night — a sharp contrast to most other parts of Russia, a country known for its brutally cold winter weather.

The city was founded in the late 19th century and soon began developing into a popular vacation destination. Visitors are drawn not just by the area’s favorable climate but also its beaches, attractive scenery, proximity to the mountains, and mineral springs, whose waters are thought to have healing powers.

Today, Sochi is home to around 400,000 people. The population swells dramatically when summer visitors arrive.

Since the announcement that the city would host the 2014 Winter Olympics, frantic preparations have been underway. Some 70,000 construction workers are currently laboring around the clock to build the Sochi Olympic Park, which will feature venues for sports such as ice hockey, speed skating, figure skating, and curling, as well as a 40,000-seat stadium where opening and closing ceremonies will be held. The park will also include a village with lodging and dining facilities for athletes, trainers, and coaches. 

In the mountains roughly 25 miles east of Sochi, a small resort town called Krasnaya Polyana is being transformed into the site for skiing and sliding sports such as downhill skiing, ski jumping, and bobsledding.

In addition to the actual Olympic structures in Sochi and Krasnaya Polyana, workers are building new roads, transit lines and stations, airline terminals, and hotels. According to a recent article in The New York Times, Russian officials have estimated that the total cost will exceed $50 billion, making these Olympics the most expensive ever.

When the Olympics begin on February 7, 2014, the world will get to see what that phenomenal sum of money paid for.

(Question submitted by a 6th-grade student at Haven Middle School in Evanston, Illinois.)

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