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Sochi Sneak Peek: 9 Things to Know About the 2014 Winter Games

Never heard of the Russian beach destination (yes, we said beach destination) until it was named host of the 2014 Winter Olympics? Get yourself up to speed -- we've put together a list of the top things you should know about this year's Winter Games and its host city by the sea.

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Ski jumps at Krasnaya Polyana
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Fact #1: It's a beach destination with a twist.

When you think of Sochi, think Miami -- but near mountains. To Russians, Sochi is one of the largest beach resort towns in the country, says Svetlana Alimova, marketing and business development manager for Go To Russia Travel Inc., in Atlanta, Georgia. "It's located at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains, which makes Sochi a popular ski resort and unique for its combination of beach and ski vacations," Alimova says. So, ice events will be held near the coast, while everything snow-related will be held in the mountains at the town's ski resort, Krasnaya Polyana.

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Fact #2: There's backup snow.

Snowfall can be a little unpredictable in this neck of the woods (poor conditions due to warm weather pictured left during a women's training session last year). Recent reports suggest there is already plenty of snow on the ground in the mountain venues, says Jon Mason, associate director of communications for the U.S. Olympic Committee. But just in case, there is a backup plan. "It's been pretty widely reported that, in the event of low snow amounts, the Organizing Committees for the Olympic Games created reserves from past winter seasons," he says.

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Fact #3: Getting there is a trip -- literally.

Hoping across the pond to Sochi will probably take at least 24 hours when you factor in flying time and layovers, Alimova says. "A flight from New York City to Moscow takes about 10 hours, a flight from Moscow to Adler, a district of Sochi (you'll know you've arrived as the Olympic rings greet planes upon landing), takes another 2.5 hours, and a transfer to the ski station takes another 1.5 hours," she says. Whew! We're exhausted just reading that itinerary.

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Fact #4: Attending the Winter Games isn't cheap.

If you want to take the trip of a lifetime to Sochi, be prepared to spend a minimum of $7,000 to $8,000 per person, Alimova says. Here's what to expect:

  • $190 for a Russian visa (a must to get into the country)
  • $1,200 (minimum) for airfare from the United States to Russia
  • $200 per night (minimum) for accommodations
  • $50 to $70 for daily meals

And then there's the price tag for tickets. "Tickets for the opening ceremony have long been sold out, with cheapest going for $200 and the most expensive sold for $1,700 per person," Alimova says. "Closing ceremony tickets will set you back a minimum of $155, and to see the finals of the men's hockey prepare to spend a minimum of $240."

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Fact #5: Skip the politics talk.

It doesn't work at dinner parties and according to the tourism and travel site sochicityguide.com it won't help you make friends with the locals, either. Some other etiquette how-to: If visiting someone's home, always bring a gift (but not an even number of flowers -- that's reserved for funerals). Never greet someone or shake hands over a threshold. It's considered bad luck, so wait until you're inside.

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Fact #6: The Games will take a village of volunteers and athletes to pull off.

The 2014 Games would not be possible without the 6,000 Olympic athletes from 85 countries who are expected to be in Sochi to compete. But there's another group who ensures that everything from the opening ceremony to the bobsledding competition goes off without a hitch -- the volunteers. According to the Sochi2014 Press Office, as you and an estimated 3 billion other viewers watch the games there will be approximately 25,000 volunteers keeping things running smoothly throughout.

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Fact #7: Sochi is also gearing up for soccer.

In addition to the Games, Sochi is hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. Plans are already in place to host some of the games at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi. The stadium, named after the highest peak in the main Caucasian Ridge, can hold 40,000 spectators and was designed to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2014 Games, according to the Sochi2014 Press Office. This is the only arena in the Olympic Park where sporting events won't be held.

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Fact #8: You're not allowed to smoke.

This will be the 12th tobacco-free Olympic Games in history. According to the Sochi2014 Press Office, the blanket ban "will protect over 155,000 athletes, sports delegation representatives, and volunteers from the harmful effects of smoking."

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Fact #9: Tweets are welcome.

That goes for Instagrams and Facebook posting, too. There have been rumors that social media won't be allowed at the Games but Mason says this is absolutely not true. "The only restriction on social media use is the posting of video from inside the event venues," he adds. So stay tuned to all of your fave feeds for the latest from Sochi.

Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, January 2014.

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