Tuesday, February 11, 2014

2014 Winter Olympics are "Out of this World"

          by Sarah Ansari-Manea

2014 Olympic opening ceremonies. Photo c/o Al Jazeera.
The 2014 Winter Olympics had an out of this world theme all throughout the opening ceremony and even prior, spreading the international love of space and stellar exploration.

The theme began with the Olympic torch relay and continued forward from there through the opening ceremonies.

The Russians have set several records with this Olympics’ torch relay this year, but last November marked the first time the Olympic torch had been exposed to the open vacuum of space.

Exactly one month since the start of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay's journey across Russia, a Soyuz TMA-11M was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with the torch on board.

On arrival at the International Space Station (ISS), the commander of the ship, cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, passed the Sochi 2014 Torch to Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazansky, who took the torch on a spacewalk on 9 November,” as reported on the official site of the Sochi games.

As outlined in the February 3rd, 2014 Space.com article "Cosmonauts take Sochi Olympic torch on spacewalk," the 2014 relay was the longest before any other Winter Olympics and covered a distance of 65,000 km. Though the torch has been in space before, it has never accompanied astronauts on a space walk.

The Olympics began last Friday, with the intent to bring the world together in celebration and featuring an overpowering space theme. Russian space exploration successes were clearly demonstrated throughout the ceremony.

As outlined in the February 7th, 2014 Space.com article "Sochi Winter Olympics Launch with Space-Flown Torch, Cosmonaut Flag-Bearers," cosmonauts, spacesuits, and rockets were some of the featured highlights used to showcase Russia’s history in space.

Pieces of the Chelyabinsk meteorite, sprinkled across Russia will also play a part in the Olympic games. Some of the gold medals will contain a piece of the meteorite, specifically those received on February 15, marking the anniversary of the collision.4

"We will hand out our medals to all the athletes who will win gold on that day [February 15], because both the meteorite strike and the Olympic Games are global events," said Chelyabinsk Region Culture Minister Aleksey Betekhtin.

Sarah Ansari-Manea.
Not only does the space-travelling torch, cosmonaut appearances, and extra planetary theme demonstrate that space is a lot closer than previously imagined, it also shows how far we have come as a race, and how much we’re capable of.

Sarah Ansari-Manea is an aspiring astrophysicist, currently completing a specialist in physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto.

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