Before a piste has been skied or a figure skated, the Sochi Olympics is already one of the most talked-about and scrutinized of the modern era. Estimated to cost in excess of $50 billion, it eclipses even the Beijing 2008 summer extravaganza, though allegations of corruption and mishandling of money have dogged preparations for the big event. With Vladimir Putin's full support and Russia's national pride on the line, these games are almost as important to the host nation as they are to the athletes competing in them.