Countdown to 2014 Winter Olympics begins

Construction in Sochi
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The official countdown to the 2014 Winter Olympics starts Wednesday.

Competition in Sochi, Russia will kick off with action in figure skating, snowboarding and freestyle skiing on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, ahead of the Opening Ceremony on Friday, Feb. 7.

Sochi is 5,780 miles across the Atlantic from Indianapolis. Dubbed the Russian Riviera, Sochi is a resort town on the Black Sea with mountains surrounding a brilliant beach. The climate is mild with an average year-round temperature in the 50s. There are plans to stockpile snow if next February is mild.

Olympic organizers visited Sochi today to mark the one year countdown. Here in the states, NBC's aggressive promotional campaign is underway.

NBC built a ski set dubbed "Mt. Rockefeller" for the Today Show this morning. The anchors competed in a relay competition, as the network released beautiful promotional spots.

NBCUniversal provided coverage for more than 210 million Americans who watched a portion of the London 2012 Summer games. The network attracted an average of about 32 million viewers a night in prime time. The network promises in 2014 we will see more Olympic events over more days from an exotic corner of the world's largest country. There will be many more chances for medals, as 12 events will debut across six sports in Sochi.

The beauty shots from helicopters flying over the Caucasus Mountains and brilliant Black Sea beaches are enticing. The town has a deep history as a resort town. Sochi was a favored vacation spot of former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

Part of NBC's promotional push is to "Remember the Feeling of London." At the 2012 summer games, the U.S. won 104 medals, more than any other country. That final count includes 46 gold medals, the most Americans have ever won in an Olympics held outside the United States. But for Sochi, the list of American medal potential stars on the snow and ice is far from set.

America's most successful skier Lindsey Vonn today says she "will work as hard as humanly possible" to represent her country after a horrific crash Tuesday at the World Championships in Austria. She tore two right knee ligaments and fractured a bone in her shin.

Meantime, American Ted Ligety at the same event is surging. He earned his first career super-G victory and the world title in snowboard with the "Flying Tomato."

Shaun White has been a sure thing. Eyewitness news covered his last two golds in the Halfpipe in the Vancouver and Torino games, but can White outdo the up and comers and three peat? Evan Lysacek earned the Gold in Figure Skating in Vancouver. For him to do it again would be a feat not seen since 1952.

At the games, new stars always emerge and they will compete in newly constructed venues. The distance between the Sochi competition sites led to the billing as the most compact winter games yet. There is a newly constructed road leading to the mountains.

"This is the biggest construction site in the world, with 70,000 workmen working 24 hours a day," said Dmitry Chernyshenko, the President and CEO of the Sochi Olympic Organizing Committee The cost of the games is now $51 billion. That's more than four times the estimate when Russia got the games in 2007.

The head of the IOC President Jacques Rogge today defended the rising costs. He said the costs include tunnels, trains and roads that are being built to last for generations, not two weeks of competition.

Eyewitness News today tried to compare airfare costs from Indy to Sochi for the games, but the airline schedules 12 months from now aren't out yet.

But the world's elite athletes have made the trip to Sochi to participate in 22 international test events. It's 365 days from now that Russia hopes to shine as hosts and in the medal count, when the world tunes in. The Games end on Feb. 23 and are followed by the Paralympic Games.

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Sochi Organizing Committee