While the public focus is on the many problems that beset the opening of the Sochi Winter Olympics which begins Friday, Feb 7, once the first referee whistle is heard, athletes, journalists and viewers would soon refocus on the medal haul.
Reuters Vincent Hancock of the U.S. poses with Denmark's Anders Golding and Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah during the men's skeet victory ceremony at the Royal Artillery Barracks during the London 2012 Olympic Games
More than the politics that happens in international events like the Summer and Winter Games or the side stories that could range from funny such as twin toilet bowls in one cubicle or irritating such as no water and Wifi in Russian hotels, what is really the heart of this athletic gathering is who is the strongest, the fastest and the best?
That is determined by the total medal haul at the end of the 17-day competition, measured mainly by how many gold medals were harvested by athletes.
The Wall Street Journal, in a fearless forecast, pointed to Norway as the likely big winner of the Sochi Games with a probably gold medal collection of 33. However, the influential business daily believes American athletes could give the Norwegians stiff competition but would fall short of one gold medal for a second-place finish.
Explaining its forecast, WSJ pointed to Norway being the all-time leader in gold and total Winter Olympic medals as its basis, even if the last time that Norway swept the medal tables was in 1968.
Another gauge was the 16 gold medal and 30 overall medal harvest of Team Norway in the 2013 World Championships. "If it repeats that performance in Sochi, it could conceivably win both medal races without even bringing ice skates, alpine ski or a curling stone to Sochi," the business daily wrote.
On one hand, the U.S. contingent has 230 athletes who would compete in all the events from speed and figure skating to alpine skiing. On the other hand, the team from Norway will concentrate of Nordic sports such as cross country and ski jumping.
Gerhard Heiberg, member of the International Olympic Committee who organised the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, said the Norwegian team will focus on where it does well and events that are closest to their hearts.
WSJ pointed out that its forecasting system has proven accurate by a few medal in the last two Olympics. The system includes expert opinion and athletes' performance in recent national and international competitions, which serve as guidance in medal haul probabilities. It also tapped the expertise of sports actuary John Dewan who ran 1,000 simulations of the Games.
Based on these simulations, Norway got 471 gold medals, followed by the U.S. (439), Germany (141), Canada (58) and Russia (48).
For overall medals, the simulation gave 549 medals to Norway and 369 to the U.S.
WSJ also forecast the 6th to 10th placers would be South Korea, The Netherlands, Austria, France and Sweden, respectively.
It foresees 30 countries sharing the medals at stake.
However, while these nations would all be considered winners - with Norway probably the biggest winner - The Australian believe Russian President Vladimir Putin will be the game's biggest loser.
It cited the games being over-controlled, overspent and over-egged as the reasons for its gloomy forecast for the Russian leader, describing the event as "a willful act of megalomania, the vanity project of a leader who has long since abandoned any ambitions to modernize Russia."
Although he would deploy 40,000 troops and police in Sochi, making the city difficult to infiltrate or attack, these tensions are reminders of the fundamental problems that Mr Putin allegedly failed to address in the 13 years he has ruled Russia as president and prime minister, the daily said.
Vincent Hancock of the U.S. poses with Denmark's Anders Golding and Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah during the men's skeet victory ceremony at the Royal Artillery Barracks during the London 2012 Olympic Games