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Sochi Games 'Better Than Expected'; Swiss Wins Super Combined

Switzerland's Sandro Viletta, skiing in the slalom portion of the men's super combined, took home the gold.
Alessandro Trovati
Switzerland's Sandro Viletta, skiing in the slalom portion of the men's super combined, took home the gold.

About halfway into the games, the International Olympic Committee is giving Sochi a "better than expected" report card. Officials say the athletes are happy, and the mood is festive.

IOC Executive Director Gilbert Felli said he had doubts about how the Olympics might turn out early on, alluding to the terrorist threats that marked the start of the games.

"We had a big concern that we would have nobody in this [Olympic] park," Felli said in a statement.

He doesn't have to worry about that anymore. The Olympic News Service reports that on Thursday alone, the Olympic Park hosted more than 100,000 people for medal ceremonies and concerts.

And Russian crowds are not just cheering for their own country, said Felli, but for others as well.

"It is a fair public. They clap not only for the Russians, but they also applaud for all the success of all the athletes, and that's something that the athletes recognize and appreciate very much."

That may be true. But the Russians cheer wildly for their own teams. And when they're disappointed, they head for the exits.

When Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko withdrew from the individual competition Thursday night after warming up, many stunned Russians in the crowd left the arena. Plushenko was Russia's only competitor in the event.

In other news:

-- The weather in Sochi is gorgeous. It's warm and sunny on the coast and in the mountains, melting snow and causing some events to be rescheduled. The sight of workers with snow machines out on the slopes has been a common sight; it hasn't snowed in the area for a week. The expected high Friday is a balmy 64 degrees Fahrenheit.

-- As far as the sports competitions themselves, Norway currently leads the medal count with 13, while Germany has the most golds, with seven. The U.S. has 12 medals, four of which are golds. But those numbers could very soon change as medals are handed out Friday in alpine, freestyle and cross-country skiing, and skeleton, biathlon and men's figure skating today.

In figure skating, Japan's Hanyu Yuzuru is currently leading the men's competition, but American Jason Brown is still in the running for a medal. He'll be performing a free skate to Riverdance on Friday night.

Meanwhile, Sandro Viletta of Switzerland took gold Friday in men's super-combined slalom, a sport American Ted Ligety was expected to dominate. Ligety ended up placing 12th, and his American teammates Bode Miller and Jared Goldberg placed sixth and 11th, respectively.

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Sam Sanders
Sam Sanders is a correspondent and host of It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders at NPR. In the show, Sanders engages with journalists, actors, musicians, and listeners to gain the kind of understanding about news and popular culture that can only be reached through conversation. The podcast releases two episodes each week: a "deep dive" interview on Tuesdays, as well as a Friday wrap of the week's news.
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