The Iceberg Skating Palace will host figure skating and short track speed skating.

The countdown to Russia’s first Winter Olympics has begun, with the Black Sea resort of Sochi preparing to welcome winter fans for the event, Feb. 7-23. This year’s games are spread out over two separate regions and could be one of the largest showcases of Russian architecture for a global audience. All of the facilities in the Mountain Cluster — which will host skiing, snowboarding and bobsled — and four of the six venues in the Coastal Cluster were designed by Russian firms.

While there is no exact dollar amount on how much was spent preparing the coastal resort town for the Olympic games, early estimates have the total event costs pegged at as much as $50 billion. Besides being the most expensive games ever held, it’s also the largest with the most events to ever take place during the Winter Olympics, and will attract the most athletes in the history of Winter Olympics.

The high price tag for the games, along with concerns about terrorism by separatists groups and ultratight security within both Olympic clusters, will likely capture plenty of media attention during the 16-day run. Russian President Vladimir Putin has monitored every stage of the process, making the bid in person to the Olympic Committee in Guatemala City in June 2006, and hand selected the top level Olympic officials charged with overseeing construction. While these games feature a number of Russian companies not entirely familiar to the venue industry, there remain a number of big name North American-linked firms that have had a hand shaping the 2014 Winter Games.

The London office of sports architecture firm Populous helped Russian officials prepare the bid for the Olympics, but they also designed the Olympic Park around the facilities as part of the larger master plan for the Olympic Village, which is anchored by the massive Fisht Olympic Stadium.

“Flexibility in terms of capacity has always been one of the key charges” from the Russian authorities when designing the stadium, said Damon Lavelle, principal for Populous in London. “We knew this stadium would be used in a variety of capacities after the games, and that meant designing in the ability for the stadium to scale down. For us that meant a combination of fixed and flexible seating that would allow the stadium to shift in size without altering the external appearance.”

The Opening Ceremonies always include the Olympic Cauldron and spectacular pyrotechnics displays, “so the design of the stadium anticipates this overlay requirement with unfolding views to the horizon, for maximized visual effects in the sky,” Lavelle said.

Populous is just one of five designers and engineers completing the stadium build, along with Botta Project Management, Buro Happold Engineers, and Russian partners MP4 and RASF.

Overseeing the massive construction is Oleg Kharchenko, CEO Olympistroy, which was given the contract to build most of the Olympic venues, and the surrounding hotels. Despite some delays opening hotels just a few days before the first contingents of visitors were set to arrive, Kharchenko said he believes the ultimate legacy of the Winter Games will be the environmental initiative his team took in creating a sustainable event.

“We make sure we are not ashamed of what we’ve done,” he said during a call with reporters in January. “We’ve done a lot to preserve natural elements, saved all the animals we could and established an ornithology park“ for bird species displaced by the Games.

He pointed to the hiring of Danila Ovcharov, Sochi 2014 head of sustainability and the environment, who helped develop the roadways into the Mountain Cluster. Caravaning a large number of athletes and fans to the spectator areas meant developing roads and tunnels that weaved through sensitive habitats.

Another sustainability concern is how the facilities will be used after the games. Besides developing sites to be used for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the long-term plan for the site could be a conference and meeting center.

“If you look at our charge when designing the Adler Arena, it was built with trade shows in mind,” said Bob Johnson with Cannon Design, who developed the temporary building including the interior of the speed skating arena and built out signature spaces for VIP-style events.

Contemporary International, a division of Contemporary Services Corporation, will be handling staffing and light security.  Ticketing will be handled by German firm CTS Eventim under the brand Partner.Ru while Russian firm Kärcher has the contract for concession services.

Interviewed for this story: Damon Lavelle, +44 (0) 208 874 7666; Oleg Kharchenko & Danila Ovcharov, +7 (862) 243-40-49; Bob Johnson, (604) 688-5710