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    Most Prominent Sporting Events of 2014

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    Highlights of 2014 (8)
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    The Sochi Winter Olympics, the FIFA World Cup and Formula 1 World Championship are among the most notable sport events over the past year.

    MOSCOW, December 24 (Sputnik) — This year has been marked by several outstanding sporting events on a global scale, uniting people from around the world as well as drawing a fair share of controversy. The Winter Olympics, the World Cup and Formula 1 races are among the most talked about events of 2014.

    2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi

    The Sochi Olympics 2014 were the first Olympic Games to be hosted by the Russian Federation. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian capital of Moscow hosted the 1980 Summer Games.

    The 2014 Winter Games took place in the Russian city of Sochi situated on the Black Sea. Sochi was elected as host city by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on July 4, 2007, competing against Austria's Salzburg, Spain's Jaca, Kazakhstan's Almaty, South Korea's Pyeongchang, Bulgaria's Sofia and Georgia's Borjomi.

    The choice was later narrowed down to Sochi, Salzburg and Pyeongchang, with the Russian city eventually becoming the winner. Sochi won over Pyeongchang with 51 votes against 47, according to the official website of the Olympic Movement.

    Media reports suggested that the Sochi Olympics cost Russia some $50 billion dollars, although the figure was surrounded by speculation as to how much of the sum was strictly Olympics-related. With such a large price tag, the 2014 Winter Games are the most costly Games in history, topping Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008 by about $10 billion. Reportedly, the $50 billion budget five times exceeded the initially planned expenditure.

    The opening ceremony of the games drew particular attention not only due to its scale but also because of a well-documented equipment malfunction and became the subject of much talk in the press.

    During the opening ceremony, five giant glowing snowflakes were transforming into Olympic rings but the last one never completed the transformation. However, the organizers decided to poke fun at themselves by purposely recreating the situation with the malfunctioned ring during the closing ceremony, making a humorous reference to the original failure.

    The Sochi Olympics 2014 closing Ceremony
    © Sputnik / Alexander Vilf
    The Sochi Olympics 2014 closing Ceremony

    Sochi 2014 also saw the debut of 12 new winter sports events comprising three mixed events, four men's events and five women's events. The new events included team figure skating, luge relay, biathlon mixed relay, women's ski jumping, men's and women's snowboard and ski slopestyle, men's and women's ski half-pipe and men's and women's snowboard parallel slalom.

    Besides new sports events, six countries made their debut at the Winter Games as well, including Malta, Paraguay, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga and Zimbabwe. The total number of participating athletes reached 2,800 comprising a record-breaking 88 National Olympic Committees and one independent Olympic participant.

    The Russian team in Sochi included several non-native Russians who competed for the country and brought in much desired gold medals. South Korean-born Russian citizen Victor An, who specializes in short track speed skating, earned four medals – three gold and one bronze.

    Another Russian athlete of foreign origin, US-born snowboarder Vic Wild, won two gold medals in Sochi in the parallel slalom and giant parallel slalom.

    Russia became the country with the largest number of both gold medals and total number of medals earned, during the 2014 Olympics.

    2014 FIFA World Cup

    The 20th Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup was held in Brazil from June 12 to July 13, taking place in 12 cities across the country. The tournament saw the participation of 32 national teams, with the total of 64 matches played. Germany won the tournament, beating Argentina.

    The FIFA championship in Brazil was marked by a couple of technological innovations introduced to facilitate referees' decision-making.

    One of these technologies is the so-called goal-line technology that, with the help of electronic devices, instantly determines if the whole of the ball has crossed the goal line. The technology was officially approved for use in 2012 by the International Football Association Board (IFAB).

    Another technology, the vanishing spray, was also in use during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The spray is biodegradable foam applied by the referee to the field to temporarily mark the area from where free kicks should be taken and the distance the opposing team's defense must observe.

    However, despite the success of the World Cup in 2014, FIFA became the center of controversy in light of an unfolding corruption scandal.

    Presentation of  Official 2018 FIFA World Cup Logo
    © Sputnik / Alexander Vilf
    In 2010, it was announced that the 2018 and 2022 championships would be hosted by Russia and Qatar respectively. The announcement was followed by accusations that Jack Warner, the FIFA vice-president at the time, was allegedly paid $1.2 million by a company controlled by a retired Qatari football official after Qatar won the bid for 2022.

    FIFA President Joseph Blatter confirmed in December that there were no legal grounds to revoke the results of 2018 and 2022 bids. He also said that FIFA was already taking measures to improve the selection process so that there would be no doubts about the fairness of the upcoming 2026 bidding.

    Several countries expressed concern over Russia's role as a host of the World Cup 2018 in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine, threatening to boycott the championship, but Blatter supported the tournament in Russia saying that sports should not be mixed with politics.

    Formula One in 2014

    In 2014, the attention of international media was drawn to the health of seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher.

    In December 2013, the German race driver sustained a severe head injury in a skiing accident at the French resort of Meribel, subsequently undergoing brain surgery. After the surgery, Schumacher was put into a medically induced coma, from which he woke in June, and is now paralyzed and bound to a wheelchair, experiencing problems with memory and speech.

    For Formula One, this year was also marked by the first ever Grand Prix held in the Russian city of Sochi. The race took place in October at the 5.8-kilometer (3.6 miles) circuit located within Sochi's Olympic Park.

    Formula One Race Director and Safety Delegate Charlie Whiting and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel both had a positive reaction to the layout of the track in the Russian city, according to the Formula One website. British driver Lewis Hamilton won the race.

    TENNIS IN 2014

    This year the world of tennis saw Serbian player Novak Djokovic taking the top Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) ranking that he previously held in 2011. Switzerland's Roger Federer and Spain's Rafael Nadal occupied the second and third slots respectively.

    By winning the 2014 French Open, Nadal also became the first ever tennis player to win five consecutive French Open titles.

    ATP also announced in December that the overall player compensation at ATP World Tour events in 2015 would exceed $100 million for the first time in history, amounting to $135 million by 2018.

    As for women's rankings, US player Serena Williams retained the top spot, with Russia's Maria Sharapova and Romania's Simona Halep ranked second and third respectively, according to Women's Tennis Association (WTA).

    2014 Dakar Rally

    The 35th Dakar Rally marked its sixth consecutive year in South America in 2014. The route for this year race wound its way between Rosario, Argentina, and Valparaiso, Chile.

    In 2014, the rally welcomed the youngest competitor in the event's history, 18-year-old quad biker Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli from Argentina.

    Russian contestant Andrey Karginov earned his first win in the truck category for the Kamaz team.

    Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius' case

    This year also saw a dramatic conclusion to the case of South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius in the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The six-time Paralympic champion admitted that he shot and killed his girlfriend on February 14, 2013, but said he had mistaken her for a robber.

    On February 19, 2013, Pistorius was charged with premeditated murder but released on bail the same month. In March 2014, the case was reviewed, and, instead of premeditated murder, Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced to five years in prison in October.

    According to media reports, however, state prosecutors have been granted permission in December to appeal the South African sprinter's conviction.

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    Highlights of 2014 (8)

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    Brazil, tennis, Formula 1, Olympics in Sochi 2014, Oscar Pistorius, Michael Schumacher, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Maria Sharapova, Germany, Russia
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