The XXII Olympic Winter Games kick off in Sochi this week with an opening ceremony Friday.
Taking place over 18 days, the Games will bring together athletes from around the world and are poised to put Russia front and center on the world stage.
The Games have already been plagued by allegations of terrorists threats, outrage over the host country's stance on gay rights, and negative reviews about Olympic village accommodations. Most recently journalists and athletes arriving to the city have been live tweeting their experiences in unfinished hotels as the city rushes to meet its deadline. Even Sochi's abundance of stray dogs have made national news.
Negative press aside, Russia has put forth an estimated $51 billion to host the Olympics and Putin views the event as a chance to show off what his country can do, as he recently told the media:
"I would like the participants, fans, journalists and all those who watch the Games on television to see a new Russia, see its face and possibilities, take a fresh and unbiased look at the country."
Are the accommodation really as bad as some people would have you believe? What new sports are debuting this year? Which athletes are the ones with the most at stake and who are the major medal contenders? Which sports have waned in popularity over the years and why? What role does the popularity of extreme sports have in this year's Olympic Games?
Katie Baker, Staff writer for Grantland.com, currently covering the Olympic Games in Sochi.
Phil Wallace, board member with the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games.
Scott Reid, reporter for OC Register, covering the games in Sochi