The Winter Olympics are at the half-way stage and while there have been some wonderful sporting successes and thrilling excitement, sideshows going on alongside the events have made just as many headlines.
Problems have combined to rain on Vancouver's parade
Away from the sporting competitions, Vancouver's games have been marred by a series of problems and controversies which have threatened to eclipse the achievements of the athletes.
The Olympic organizers have had to contend with the death of a Georgian luger Nodar Kumarishtavili; cancellations and postponements of events due to warm temperatures and a lack of snow; transportation problems for athletes and the public alike; nearly 28,000 ticket cancellations; and technical hitches, from the breakdown of an ice-making machine; to the malfunctioning of the Olympic cauldron – the symbol of any Games.
There have also been concerns about security at the Olympics after it was revealed this week that a mentally ill man had managed to breach security and get within meters of US Vice President Joe Biden at the technically-blighted opening ceremony.
Media campaign focusing on Vancouver's failings
Controversy has been building since the glitchy opening ceremony
On top of the problems which the Olympic organizers have had to contend with, the games have come under intense scrutiny and criticism from the international media, turning the reporting of the Games itself into an event with as much audience-pulling power as the downhill slalom or the ice skating.
A host of international publications have spent as much time hammering the organizers for the Games' flaws as they've spent praising the medal winners. Lawrence Donegan, a journalist with The Guardian, a British newspaper, even went as far as to suggest that Vancouver could qualify as the "worst Games ever."
While it is clear that Vancouver has already had its fair share of problems, it seems that enjoying and celebrating the sporting achievements taking place at the Games has become passé and that bashing the Olympics has become the new sport to champion - despite some towering performances so far.
Vonn and Riesch pull out the stops on the slopes
Vonn and Riesch are even at one gold apiece thus far
Perhaps the duel of the Games so far has been between American alpine skier Lindsey Vonn and her friend and rival Maria Riesch of Germany. At the outset the top-ranked Vonn had a total of four golds in her sights, and she began her quest with a perfect run in the Women's Downhill, winning gold and muscling her way to the summit of a discipline long dominated by the European superpowers of Switzerland, Austria and Germany.
Vonn's quest for a golden sweep of the other alpine disciplines was dashed, however, when she crashed in the women's super combined, paving the way for Riesch to rebound from her own disastrous downhill race and win gold, the first by a German Alpine skier at the Winter Olympics in 12 years.
The two skiers' face-off is set to continue in the slalom and super-G events.
Superstar White spectacularly defends snowboard title
USA's Shaun White finished first by a mile
In the snowboarding competition, few would begrudge Shaun White cementing his superstar status after he spectacularly defended his half-pipe title. The flame-haired American finished ahead of Finland's Peetu Piiroinen and fellow US boarder Scott Lago in breath-taking style. He took a commanding lead on his first run and, knowing he'd won the event, broke off a second run that bettered it - by landing a number of tricks that other riders hadn't dared try.
A special moment was also recorded in the women's snowboarding event when Torah Bright won Australia's first gold of the Vancouver Games in the women's half-pipe, ending the long-standing US domination of the sport.
An even rarer occurrence than an Australian winning an Olympic snowboarding medal could take place if Britain's Amy Williams holds on to her lead in the skeleton event. Britain hasn't won an individual gold at a Winter Games for 30 years but Williams has been the star of the event so far and holds a 0.30 second lead, which, in a sport of such fine margins, is a colossal lead.
Germany chasing US in race for No.1 medal spot
Germany has the top spot - and rivals USA - in their sights
Then there is the race for the most medals which has seen the United States and Germany break away from the pack, with the US making a run at finishing the Winter Olympics with the most hardware for the first time in nearly 80 years.
Much is made of the individual brilliance of the athletes but the team competition is just as captivating and this year, watching the US and Germany rack up medals in pursuit of the No.1 position makes for an interesting sub-plot. Germany is in hot pursuit of the US but will be wary of Norway and the host nation creeping up behind. A strong showing by Canada this year is helping the local support get behind their beleaguered Games and generate a more positive atmosphere.
With many titles still up for grabs in the second half of these Games, one can only hope that the headlines between now and the closing ceremony on February 28th are sporting ones.
Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Matt Hermann