The 2014 Winter Olympics open February 7 and, aside from state-sponsored activities such as gay-bashing and race-baiting (who says the Russians don’t know how to throw a party?), the Swedish contingent appears ready to compete in the more mundane Olympic sports ranging from biathlon to speed skating.
Social and political controversies have already swirled around the Sochi Olympics as Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to exclude gay athletes from the Games and made disparaging remarks about non-white athletes participating in winter sports. Human rights groups in Russia have used the attention the Olympics have generated to spotlight abuses under Putin’s government while gay and lesbian groups have held protests against the Russian protest. As though that wasn’t enough to get the news cameras ready to roll, separatists and terrorists from Chechnya to al-Qaida have threatened to disrupt the Games.

Anyone for a snowball fight?
The political turmoil surrounding the games prompted Swedish Sports Minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth to announce she would not attend the Opening Ceremony for political reasons but insisted she will not boycott the Games entirely.
Branding the ceremony on February 7 as a "propaganda stunt," Liljeroth told state broadcaster SVT her decision to snub the grand opening of what will be the most expensive Games in Olympic history is a "political statement."
She said there are unanswered questions about the cost of the event, its environmental impact and the nation's human rights record, and added that she plans to meet representatives of pro-democracy groups during her visit to Sochi to support Sweden's athletes later in the Games.
"There is a special situation in Russia where the powers that be seem to encourage oppression of homosexuals and pro-democracy activists," Liljeroth said.
Liljeroth is not alone in skipping the ceremony. President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, German President Joachim Gauck, French leader François Hollande and the heads of Canada, Belgium, Lithuania, Moldova and Georgia have also refused to attend.
Sweden’s Olympians are under orders to refrain from making “provocative” gestures or otherwise showing their displeasure of Russian policies. The edict came after several Swedish athletes adorned themselves in the rainbow-colored gear of lesbian and gay protest groups.


Medal chances at the games
At the actual sports, Sweden has a decent chance of winning something. The teams with the best chances of claiming gold are the men’s hockey team and the men’s and women’s curling teams. Sweden’s women’s hockey team could compete for a bronze medal in a sport the Americans and Canadians dominate. For a closer look at the Swedish curling teams, see Sweden set for curling gold at Sochi
Sweden’s other best shots at gold are in cross country skiing and biathlon. Marcus Hellner and Charlotte Kalla look to add to their medal collection. Hellner won two gold medals in Vancouver in 2010 in the 30-km pursuit and 4x10 km relay while Kalla nabbed a gold in the 10-km freestyle and a silver in the team sprint four years ago.
Biathlete Björn Ferry aims to repeat his gold-medal performance in Vancouver when he won the pursuit 12.5-km event.
In skiing, Andre Myhrer, a slalom specialist, is a contender for gold in that event. He currently ranks 23rd on the World Cup circuit. Myhrer is quirky, fast and erratic on the slopes. When he skies well, he can compete with the very top in the sport as showed four years ago in Vancouver when he took the bronze medal in the slalom. When he doesn’t, he looks like a moose on ice skates, as he also showed at Vancouver when he finished near the bottom of the standings in the slalom after his first run. Joining Myhrer in possible medal contention is Mattias Hargin, who finished 14th at Vancouver but had a strong 2013 World Cup season.
On the women’s side, Frida Hansdottir looks to finally win gold after racking up more second-place finishes in World Cup and World Championship race than anyone else in the sport’s history. Her specialty is slalom but she also competes in the giant slalom. Jessica Lindell-Vikeby will compete in the Super G and giant slalom while Kajsa King, who has a smattering of medals from the World Cup, will ski in every discipline.
In figure skating, the darling of the Winter Games for its grace and style, four-time Nordic Champion Victoria Helgesson looks to make her big breakthrough onto the world stage. Helgesson was the first Swede, male or female, to win a medal at the World Grand Prix in 2011 when she took the bronze. She finished fifth last year at the European Championships. Alexander Majorov, the three-time Nordic men’s championship, makes his Olympic debut for Sweden.
The strongest part of the Swedish Olympic team is the NHL dominated men’s hockey team. Sweden won the gold in 2006 but crashed out in quarters in 2010. The Tre Kronor and Canada are the odds-on favorites to reach the gold-medal match.
For a complete preview of the Swedish hockey team, go to
The NBC Network will broadcast every game of the Olympic hockey tournament.