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Outside of working for The Lebanon Enterprise, I don’t watch a lot of sports.
I suppose you could compare that to someone who makes chocolate for a living, I am sure they don’t eat a lot of it outside of work, either.
Because of this fact, I found myself in a pickle when it came time to write this column.
As I struggled to find a topic, I was quickly reminded that the Olympics are right around the corner.
To me, there is something humbling about them. Besides the unusual but challenging sports involved like the luge, biathlon, curling, and more, I am reminded these athletes are not paid like professional football or basketball players.
In fact, the only money some of them get outside of their living expenses is when they earn a medal. Because they are not paid ridiculous amounts of cash, it could be argued competition really is the one and only true motive.
With that said, I would like to provide you with a few fun facts for the 2014 Winter Olympic games.
If you don’t already know, this year’s winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia. A quick WolframAlpha search shows that from Lebanon, Sochi is a mere 5,781 miles away.
To put this in perspective, WolframAlpha said that by plane, it would take nearly 11 hours to get there (assuming there were no layovers).
Just for fun however, even if you were going at the speed of sound, it would still take seven hours and 45 minutes. Or, if you were going at the speed of light in a vacuum, it would take 32 milliseconds.
But if you were to take this journey to watch an event or two in Sochi, you may want to bring your Visa card.
That’s because the Sochi 2014 games will only accept Visa cards for ticket purchases.
Sorry MasterCard and American Express holders.
And since you’re whipping out your credit card, you may also want to be sure you can afford to pay the bill afterwards. A good seat for the opening ceremony on Feb. 7 will set you back 50,000 rubles. That’s just over $1,500.
In contrast, a good seat for the women’s snowboarding event on Feb. 9 will only cost 3,500 rubles, or just over $105.
And as the prices vary greatly, so do the athletes themselves.
The 2014 games will have 6,000 athletes from 85 countries around the world competing in 15 different competitions with multiple tiers. One of my favorites is the biathlon, a competition which mixes skiing with rifle marksmanship.
Of course, the winners of the competitions will get medals – gold, silver and bronze.
While each Olympics’ medal design is different, so is the price tag. You may actually be surprised to see how much Olympic bling is really worth.
In a press release from Sochi officials, it says 1,300 medals were made for both the Olympics and Paralympics.
In total, 3 kilograms, or 6.6 pounds of gold was used for all of the gold medals with each one weighing 460 grams.
Assuming each medal was made strictly of 24k gold (which they’re not, the medals also have silver), each one would be worth around $18,000. That is of course using a rough price for gold that I found online.
While that is a nice little sum, you could in fact buy one because that is not what they are going for at auction.
According to ABC News, a gold medal worn by a former Soviet Union athlete went to auction several years ago and fetched only $8,000.
However, according to the BBC, a complete set of bronze, silver and gold medals from various competitions in the 1908 London games was sold for a mere £17,000. At the time of this writing, that was equal to $27,786.84.
While those price tags are nothing to shake a stick at, on Monday, WDRB reported a medal earned by Jesse Owens just sold for $1.5 million
Finally, just so you know, according to CNN, the Russian space program launched an Olympic torch into space last month.
While this is not the first time the torch has gone into orbit, the cosmonauts took the torch into the vacuum of space where they completed the first spacewalk/relay with the torch. Sochi officials have said that same torch will be the one to light the Olympic cauldron in February.
This feat is just a reminder of how far we as humans have really come.
Just 110 years ago we were learning to sort of glide on the beach and 300 years ago there was a lot of tyrannical oppression.
Nerdy facts aside, I know many of us could not afford the bill to see one or two of these competitions this winter, but I’d like to leave you with this – the Olympics may just allow us to see humankind at one of its very best moments – free, fair, and sporting.