2014 Winter Olympic Games Opened, Christians Share Gospel in Sochi
By Dan Wooding/Assist Ministries On February 10, 2014
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times about the opening ceremony at the XXII Winter Olympic Games on Friday, February 7, 2014, in Sochi, "There were human doves twirling to Tchaikovsky, ballerinas waltzing with Tolstoy, and a prolonged roar for a Russian team wearing the coolest of fur-lined coats.
"On a chilly night along the shores of the Black Sea, Russia welcomed the world to the Sochi Olympics on Friday with a giant embrace that was equal parts elegant, awkward and Putin.
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"The three-hour opening ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium highlighted the beauty of the Russian culture and strength of the Russian spirit. But it did little to lift the cloud of uneasiness hanging over a Games that began amid protests over Russian anti-gay laws and fear over terrorism. Somehow it seemed fitting when a set of floating snowflakes suddenly transformed themselves into Olympic rings - but only four of them. The fifth snowflake never changed."
The story written by Bill Plaschke, went on to say, "During a ceremony that officially began the competition for 3,000 athletes competing in 15 sports, there were many other unvarnished moments of richness and regret. Both were experienced by a U.S.A. contingent that marched into the stadium wearing loud sweaters composed of so many different bits of stars, stripes and rings, they looked like a patriotic stock car.
Torch bearers arriving in Sochi
"The Russians stole that show, as their athletes marched into the arena wearing colorful blue and red coats and fur caps while music thumped and 40,000 fans rose to their feet to cheer and flash blinking blue lights. The ovation, march and music lasted for several long minutes. It felt like Staples Center when the Lakers take the court.
"There were also loud cheers for the cool and dancing bobsledders from Jamaica, the Bermuda-shorts wearing contingent from - where else? - Bermuda, and the heavily bundled and extremely honest group from Iceland."
But this was another side to what is going on at the Olympics, as many Christian groups have descended on the Black Sea town, with the message of Good News.
Each day, the International Christian Information Center, on location in Sochi, is presenting daily news and other coverage of Christian and secular events at the XXII Winter Olympic Games. The center is run by several evangelical organizations and its team of volunteers is in Sochi for the express purpose of serving the Lord and the visitors to the games.
So here are their first reports:
Christian Hospitality Center Opens its Doors at the Sochi Olympics
After church leaders Ivan Chehunov, Richard Page and Vladimir Samoilov, the primary organizers of the Christian Hospitality Center in Sochi, solemnly cut the ribbon at the entrance to the tent on February 7, the Center was open for business.
Alexander Manchenko in action
In the ensuing program, the Sochi musician Sergey Strakhov performed the spiritual "Let my People Go". The program included special guest Alexander Manchenko, a world champion in power lifting. Manchenko amazed the audience by turning a 16-inch metal rod into rings - a symbol of the Olympics. In addition, the Center's visitors took part in a dance flash mob.
In an open cafe area, guests were offered tea and coffee. At exactly 8:14 p.m. locally, the Center began a live broadcast of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. A large number of children gathered for entertainment organized by the Center.
The Sochi Olympic Games have contributed to the life of the city of Sochi and the entire country in a unique way. Visitors to the Hospitality Center shared their impressions about the changes to their lives brought about by the Olympics. For a team of volunteers from the USA, ministry to these people has become an integral part of their current ministry.
All are invited to visit the Olympic Games in Sochi and participate in the work of the Hospitality Center. It is the fruit of fervent faith and the sincere desire to share the Good News with guests of the games.
Christians in Sochi
In a video report, Richard Page, Director of SOAR International Ministries (www.soarinternational.org, spoke about the work of his organization in Russia. The organizers of the Center speak about their contribution to the development of the Olympic volunteer movement and the planning of cultural activities for guests at the Olympics. Page's organization is the primary organizer of the Center, Rev. Chehunov is a leader within Russia's Association of Evangelical Christians and Samuolov is from the organization in Russia.
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Day One in Sochi
The first day of the Olympics in Sochi turned out to be rich in events. The first matches and gold medals as well as exciting events will be remembered for a long time. The International Christian Information Center has begun its work. Our journalists are in the midst of things and are sharing the latest news.
Richard Page during interview in Sochi
On the first day of the Olympics, the guests of Sochi were greeted by the life-size mascots of the Olympic Games: a bear, a hare and a snow leopard. The costumes were prepared by the administration of the city. Tatyana Starodub, director of Sochi's cultural center, talked to one of our reporters about the events planned in the city. According to her, dozens of concert and entertainment stages have been set up throughout the area. Consequently, sports are not the sole drawing card attracting spectators to Sochi. Twenty-three open-air musical events are to be held in the city.
Sochi's recreation areas are much-loved by the public. Cultural and entertainment events start around midnight and attract large crowds. Russian pop-singers and stars entertain the listeners, and each event ends with fireworks. Sochi live-sites are a comfortable place for visitors to catch up on the latest sporting developments, with main events being transmitted on large screens.
On February 8, the second day of the games, a conference entitle "One Step Closer to Quitting Smoking", was held. Dmitry Nosov, bronze medalist at the Olympic Games in Athens 2004 and deputy of the Russian Duma, reported on how the special non-smoking environment in Sochi was created. According to him, this unique experiment should be applied to other regions of Russia.
A volunteer in action
Our three hospitality centers in Sochi, Khostal and Krasnaya Polyana are participating in the cultural life of the Olympics. On the 8th, the centers offered programs supported by volunteers from the Wave of Hope movement. The head center in Sochi offered board games and workshops; a photo display drew special attention. It featured snowboarding equipment with the symbols of the Sochi Olympics, an activity initiated by the Orientir Sochi youth club.
All three centers are up and running due to the efforts of volunteers from Russia, the United States and elsewhere. This project was organized by the evangelical churches of Sochi and SOAR International Ministries.