The Winter Olympics in Sochi are just a few days away, and all eyes are on Russia. As the most expensive games in history, billing $50 billion on Putin’s national tab, many socio-economic and political issues have been raised – from security concerns to awkward public bathrooms.

However, the Sochi Games also boasts a number of achievements – it is the biggest Winter Olympic Games ever, and will host more countries than ever before, award more medals than any other Winter Games (98 medal sets in seven sports and 15 disciplines), and feature new events.

It is also the first time an Olympic Park has been designed as part of a Winter Games master plan, and firm in charge, global design practice Populous which has studios in Brisbane and Melbourne, is determined to get it right.

Populous was selected to design the overlay of the competition and non-competition venues and facilities for the 2014 Games in 2009.

According to the team, the process of master planning began with a long-term legacy strategy for creating vibrant and sustainable places within cities. Sporting and entertainment venues are used as urban catalysts, while the relationship between various social infrastructure elements are fostered and developed.

The Fisht Olympic Stadium is the crown in the plans, and will make its debut at the Opening Ceremony.


Inspired by the elaborate jewel-encrusted Faberge eggs, a renowned Russian icon, the shell-like design of the Stadium features a translucent polycarbonate roof which will be used to project vivid illumination shows during the Games.

These roofs, which were created to guarantee ‘studio’ conditions for the opening and closing ceremonies, also give the venue an appearance of snowy peaks, ensuring the stadium sits in harmony with the landscape of the Imeretinskaya Valley and Caucasus Mountains.

According to architect Damian Lavelle, principal of Populous, the roof and rigging alone contain more than 8,000 tonnes of steel.


Together with the temporary roof, there was a requirement for large temporary ‘staging’ structures, christened the ‘hangars’, at the north and south ends of the stadium.

Located on a raised mount which will offer views across the park, the stadium has a three-sided design that provides good enclosure and shelter from the sea side (south), enclosure on the long (east and west) sides, as well as openness to the centre of the Olympic Park on the north end. It is at the north where the medals plaza are located.

Together with Buro Happold, Populous designed the lower seating tier of the stadium to take on an extensive series of demountable structures, including eight tunnels each nine metres wide and a fully demountable northern section of the lower tier to enable a large-scale staging operation in that section of the seating bowl.

The middle and upper tiers of the south and north ends were designed to be added on after the Olympics Games, expanding to a gross capacity of 45,000. Post-Games, it is expected that the in-built flexibility of the stadium’s design will cater for event configurations from 45,000 seats for FIFA World Cup matches to a compact, atmospheric 25,000 for local matches.

This potential longevity stands contrary to the 2012 London Summer Olympics, where 26 of the 24 venues were designed to be temporary or, in the case of the main stadium, scaled back.

The Sochi Olympics will begin on Friday February 7 with the opening ceremony, and close on Sunday February 23.