Sochi: Love is in the air at the Winter Olympics, where the balmy weather at the sub-tropical showpiece is not the only thing that’s getting hotter.
On the eve of Valentine’s Day, wedding plans are being made and hints of love affairs denied.
There’s even a phone app available to help track down your soulmate on the slopes.
Chinese veteran figure skaters Pang Qing and Tong Jian, silver medallists at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, were fourth in the pairs competition on Wednesday and immediately turned their thoughts to marriage.
Pang and Tong, both 34, who started skating together as six-year-olds, are a couple off the ice, having become engaged when Tong proposed during an ice show in China.
“We haven’t planned our ceremony yet, as we’ve been focused on our training. Now it’s time for us to think about it,” said Tong after the pair’s performance to “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables.
They are following in the footsteps of 2010 Olympic pairs champion Zhao Hongbo, who is back in Sochi as a coach with the Chinese team.
He and former pairs partner Shen Xue are married and had a baby in September.
Elsewhere at the Iceberg Palace arena, skaters are losing themselves in tender embraces to rousing soundtracks from “Phantom of the Opera”, “Jesus Christ Superstar” and, appropriately enough, “Romeo and Juliet”.
Not that brooding entanglement on the ice means a romantic flourish off it.
Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch delighted with their bubbly performance in the pairs final where every loop and twist was accompanied by warm smiles.
The pair tightly grasped each other’s hand as they came off the ice.
“It’s an interesting relationship because there’s never been anything off the ice for Dylan and I but I think what we have is so special, in a sense better than that,” said Moore-Towers.
– Great working relationship –
“We have a great working relationship and we enjoy what we do and we’re able to leave it at the rink at the end of the day.”
However, Valentine’s Day in Sochi could be an icy one for curling couple Xu Xiaoming of China and his South Korean wife Kim Ji-Sun with the women’s teams from the two countries set to clash.
“Through curling we have a lot of interaction with the Chinese female team, so I would be very happy if they won,” said 29-year-old Xu, who plays on the men’s team.
The South Korean men’s team did not qualify for Sochi so, unlike her husband, Kim, 26, has no loyalty issues.
“Of course I would cheer for the Korean team, because those are my countrymen,” she said.
“But I would at the same time be cheering for China because that is my husband. In the end, I would hope for my husband that he would win.”
Organisers are understood to have distributed 100,000 condoms for competitors — and there are only around 3,000 athletes.
Athletes can hook up by using dating app Tinder.
“Tinder in the Olympic Village is next level,” gold medal snowboarder Jamie Anderson told Us Weekly magazine.
“It’s all athletes! In the mountain village it’s all athletes. It’s hilarious. There are some cuties on there.”
Experts believe that with young athletes in the prime of their lives and packed into the tight security confines of the village, there are going to be plenty of liaisons during the Games, which run until February 23.
“There is stress, which causes tension, and anxiety and energy, and a massive outpouring of chemicals in the body — adrenaline and endorphins. It’s a powerful concoction of chemicals. Everyone knows the runner’s high,” she said.
“Olympian athletes certainly have it — it’s orgasmic.”