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Downtown Colorado Springs takes on a Russian flavor for Olympic celebration

January 31, 2014
Caption +
United States bobsled brakeman Lolo Jones arrives at the 2014 Winter Olympics on Jan. 30 in Sochi, Russia. For those who can't join her in Sochi for the opening ceremony, there will be an Olympic party in downtown Colorado Springs. (AP Photo/David Goldman, Pool)

If you want to see the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, you can hop on an airplane out of Colorado Springs and fly to Sochi Aeroport. It's about 18 hours with a couple of stops - or up to 40 hours depending on the flight, where it stops on the way and how long the stops last.

Or you can head to downtown Colorado Springs and watch the ceremony on a 17-foot screen. Travel time: a half hour, give or take.

From a world away, Sochi will play on the streets in Colorado Springs starting at 5 p.m. Feb. 7 as the U.S. Olympic Committee, city of Colorado Springs, Downtown Development Corp. and Colorado Springs Sports Corp. put on a street party celebrating the Winter Olympics.

Thousands of locals are expected, depending on Mother Nature.

Click here for a map of street closures.

"The biggest obstacle, really, is the weather," said Jeff Mosher, special projects manager for the Sports Corp. "We're still not sure what our crowds are going to look like. If it's minus 18, people just won't come out."

The forecast for that day calls for snow showers, a high of 27 degrees and a low of 5 degrees, according to The Weather Channel. But with six days to go, that forecast could change.

Snow and cold regardless, Mosher is going with the saying that the show must go on.

Besides, plenty of the performers are used to snow and cold, Mosher said.

"We will run with it," Mosher said. "KOAA will do a live broadcast no matter what the weather is. The ice climbers are coming in, and they said the only thing that will stop them is lightning and really strong wind. They say: 'We're ice climbers. We don't care if it's cold and snowy.' The dogsledders want snow. Snow is not going to bother us too much with our activities."

Getting ready for the event has been a long and bumpy road.

First snow was to be shipped in or created. Now, that's out.

"We had talked about trucking or making snow," Mosher said. "At this point, its just too cost prohibitive."

Bands were going to play from rooftops over Tejon Street.

Now they're not. They will be on the streets with the partygoers.

Snowshoeing and sledding were planned, then dropped - though, if it does snow, those could be brought back.

The bands, however, could be affected, since there is no place for them to seek shelter if it snows. But they could head to one of the warming stations and knock back a few vodkas at the Ketel One Vodka Zone.

Vodka is just one of the ingredients of a celebration with a fitting theme of Russia and Winter Olympic sports. There will be Russian garb, Russian art, even a few Russians.

There will also be Extreme Game snowmobile jumping and the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic Cauldron.

Despite the hours of planning beforehand, the real work will be on the day of the event, when some downtown roads will be closed and the 17-foot big screen will be hauled in while performers set up.

Downtown has hosted two other Olympic celebrations, both held in the summer, that drew tens of thousands of visitors. This is the first for the winter games.

"It's a unique event. It's really a great opportunity for people to come downtown in the offseason," said Laurel Prud'homme, spokeswoman for the Downtown Partnership. "We have so many athletes here and are home of the Olympic Committee. We're hoping it will be sunny, but the show is going to go on no matter how cold it gets."

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