The torch visited a number of localities on Russia’s Black Sea coast before reaching the mountain cluster of Olympic venues. On Thursday and Friday, torchbearers will carry the Olympic flame around Sochi, and the 123-day-long relay will officially end during Friday’s opening ceremony.
For the first time in the Games’ history, the Olympic medals also toured cities ahead of the event.
The medals were seen by about 2.5 million people in 16 Russian cities, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don, Yaroslavl, Murmansk, Stavropol and Ufa.
“The medals have now completed their wonderful journey around Russia and arrived in Sochi,” said Svetlana Zhurova, a Russian Olympic champion who took part in the official ceremony to mark the arrival of the medals.
“I’m glad we’re introducing such a tradition, I hope that the IOC [International Olympic Committee] supports the idea and other [Olympic] nations follow suit and show their medals to as many people as possible,” she said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has arrived in Sochi and met with athletes Friday, said the Olympic preparations have been “the world’s biggest construction project,” as all facilities had to be built from scratch.
“Russia is ready to host the games,” Putin said. “We have been preparing for this moment for seven years.”
The president played a key role in securing his country’s first-ever Winter Games, delivering an impassioned promotional speech in English to members of the IOC back in 2007.
A number of high-ranking guests, including heads of states and international organizations, have already started to arrive.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said up to 70 international leaders are expected to attend the games in Sochi, compared to 12 heads of state at the previous Winter Olympics in Vancouver.