Two months after leaving Sochi, I finally get around to writing a final wrap-up post on my experiences at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Those last few days in Sochi were an amazing whirlwind. After the excitement of watching the women’s gold medal game followed by some very interesting Russian karaoke, I had a day off to explore the mountain venues of the Krasnaya Polyana region. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate.
It was very rainy in the mountains, and I didn’t particularly feel like paying big bucks to stand around in the mud for a few hours at the extreme park, so after a quick look at a few venues, I ended up taking the bus back down to Adler.
A former colleague from Vancouver 2010 was now working at the speed skating venue, and she arranged an upgrade pass for me to attend the evening’s team pursuit event. Turns out that long-track speed skating isn’t as much fun as a spectator as short track.
Afterwards, I popped back out to the medals plaza where Canadian ski cross athletes Marielle Thompson and Kelsey Serwa were receiving their gold and silver medals.
The Games community can be such a small world sometimes. A friend-of-a-friend who was working for NBC in Sochi turned out to be the son of a former colleague, so we met up for a few minutes at the MPC… and he snuck me out a coffee from the not-so-secret NBC Starbucks. I was practically giddy.
Then it was time to work the men’s ice hockey bronze medal game. And by work I mean take some cool photos around the venue before the game, sit in the first row to watch the game, and then record some awesome quotes from Teemu Selanne during the post-game interviews in the mixed zone.
And then there was the day that these three weeks in Russia had led up to – really, the culmination of a year of the volunteer application process and planning. The gold medal game. Back in 2010, I didn’t even get to watch the men’s gold medal game on TV – I was on a bus coming down from Whistler when Crosby scored the winning goal – but now I was right there in the thick of things.
I had my iPad with me during the game, and thanks to Twitter rumours I was able to tip off my ONS reporter colleagues about the Backstrom suspension for suspected doping, so they could to jump into action and be ready to report that breaking story. After a couple of shot-off-the-crossbar moments, I also tweeted what ended up being my most popular comment during the entire Games:
Following the game, we headed down to the mixed zone for the final time. I gathered quotes from Daniel Alfredsson, Sidney Crosby and Carey Price, and input them into the Info2014 system.
And then after making sure the team had enough people that they wouldn’t miss me, bailed on the post-game press conference because I HAD A TICKET TO THE CLOSING CEREMONY.
The friend who I’d helped out at the figure skating venue had emailed me early that day: she had an extra ticket to the closing and would I like it? Um, yes, please.
I couldn’t get many decent photos due to the dim lighting, but loved the ceremony.
And then that was it. The Games were over. There were high points and low points, and don’t even get me started on the actions of Russia in the past two months. But when people ask me about my time in Sochi, I always say that I had the experience I wanted: I spent three weeks in Russia, had lots of fun, got to see several different sporting events and worked at some of the most exciting hockey games ever.
On departure day, my roommate and I decided to pop back into Olympic Park one last time, in an attempt to get our photos taken at the Olympic Rings without anyone else in the background. Well, that didn’t work out as planned. As we waited patiently for a few people to get out of the way, all of a sudden a big group of people in red-and-white uniforms showed up. Hey, that’s Evgeni Plushenko. And huh, these are all the Russian medalists. Cool. Hmm, what’s with the five black vehicles pulling up so quickly in the middle of the park? Is that the secret service? Oh look, it’s President Putin.
So yeah, I inadvertently broke my promise to my mother to ‘stay away from that Putin guy’ because there he was right in front of us.
After that little bit of excitement, my roommate and I walked back along the seashore to the volunteer village, stopping to dip our feet into the Black Sea.
до свидания, Sochi! I’ll be really curious to see what happens to the area and the venues over the coming years. Will there be a legacy of the Games for the people of Russia, or will we see photos like these from Sarajevo down the line?