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by Katy Funabashi

Returning medalists, rising stars, unheard of torch relay destinations and that contagious, fiery nationalistic spirit are only a few of the reasons I am excited for this February’s Olympic Games, hosted in Sochi, Russia.

Even though the Opening Ceremony is on Friday, Feb. 7, television, magazine and billboard advertisements are bound to start spewing out information on the Winter Olympics, hoping to get viewers to tune into NBC for at least some portion of the Games.

According to forbes.com, NBC Universal calculated the 2012 Summer London Olympic Games had about 31.1 million viewers during prime-time events.

This was an unprecedented number of viewers, making the 2012 Olympics a smashing success for NBC, which will be the host of the next four Olympics.

So in 2020 when we are all settling down from a long day at work, mesmerized by a currently undecided host city’s Olympic games, the NBC rainbow peacock will still be in the bottom right corner of our TVs (if we even still use something as outdated as TVs in seven years…).

Russia is taking its job very seriously; the country has never hosted an Olympic Games before, but the Soviet Union held the 1980 Games.

The Fisht Olympic Stadium will house about 40,000 spectators for the opening and closing ceremonies.

Other impressive architecture includes the Bolshoy Ice Dome, crafted to fit 12,000 hockey enthusiasts for the final match, and the always impressive Olympic Village that houses the athletes throughout the Olympics.

The host country even stored snow in the Caucasus Mountains to ensure there will be plenty of powder for the athletes, according to worldnews.nbcnews.com.

Months prior to the Opening Ceremony, an out-of-this-world Olympic torch relay will commence.

In October, Santa and Mrs. Claus’ hometown will be visited by the Olympic torch. The Russian icebreaker ship 50 Let Pobedy, translated to mean “50 Years of Victory,” will bring the torch 3,000 miles from Russia to the North Pole.

And if you think that journey’s lengthy, imagine what Russian astronaut Mikhail Tyurin has to go through in November!

Tyurin is bringing the torch to the International Space Station where it will be passed off to two cosmonauts.

The cosmonauts will then bring the torch on a spacewalk. The unlit torch (for reasons obvious to you and me) will be the first ever Olympic torch in outer space.

Though the torch relay is a highly anticipated event, the medal ceremonies are always a crowd favorite (remember Ryan Lochte and his American flag grill?).

The swell of the athlete’s country’s national anthem and the looks of uncontainable joy and accomplishment strewn across the champion’s faces are enough to tug at viewers’ heartstrings.

But the medal and the athlete’s shining smile are what newspapers and websites obsessively try to capture.

The 2014 medals are going to be a “Patchwork Quilt” design, according to olympic.org.

Medals will be composed of metal and polycarbonate, and are designed to look like “a mosaic of national designs from the various cultures and ethnicities of the Russian Federation.”

New medals are customary, but new sports add a splash of excitement to the games. Men and women’s slopestyle skiing, halfpipe skiing, slopestyle snowboard and parallel special slalom are new additions.

Women’s normal hill ski jumping will make its debut, as will the figure skating team event, the team relay luge and the mixed relay biathlon.

Sochi is just two sports shy of reaching the 100-mark, but hopefully South Korea will shatter this record in 2018.

Just reading the words “Team USA” is probably enough to send you searching for dozens of those mini-American flags they hand out at parades.

But news like the return of gold medalist Lindsey Vonn after her heartbreaking knee injury, which occurred at the 2013 world championships held in Austria and the return of Shaun White, the Flying Tomato will make you want to break out your red, white and blue face paint and your American flag t-shirts, shorts, socks, hats, scarves and more. And don’t even get me started on hockey…

Even though the Super Bowl, held February second in East Rutherford, N.J., might cause rifts in friendships, the 2014 Olympic Games are sure to heal these fractured relationships just five days later.

Sochi is nine hours ahead of us on the East Coast, and after only 17 days of competition, the Games will be over.

Sigh. But, hey, look on the bright side. March Madness will be just around the corner, as will the Paralympic Games, held from March 7-16.

And then the World Cup returns to our TVs in June.

It is an understatement to say the next few months are going to be heavenly for sports-enthusiasts!

Even if you are not a sports enthusiast, tune in Feb. 7 for the Opening Ceremony to check out the athletes, their outfits and the glory that graces us with its presence every two years.

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