I guess, relief, would be the first word. After hearing weeks of the American news media talk about numerous security threats I can honestly say that has been a non-issue. In fact, no one here is even talking about it. Admittedly I was relieved to see our NBC charter approach Sochi over the Black Sea rather than the mountain ranges that a Washington Post report said grenade launchers could target approaching planes.
Once we touched down the presence of the 40,000 security and military personnel was very visible. The "Ring of Steel" that has been labeled as the secure area by the media actually extends about 70 miles around the Olympic Village. We are staying in a Rosa Khutor which is about a 45 minute bus ride from the Olympic Village. Our Radisson Hotel is near the ski and extreme winter sports area in the mountains.
The road we travel to the Village is newly built in the last two years. It was part of the $51 billion in infra structure that Vladimir Putin invested in these Sochi Olympic Games. Along that stretch of road are thousands of Russian soldiers. They dot the landscape. They sleep in camouflaged tents and carry guns. Interestingly, there is still a lot of unfinished construction near Sochi and it makes me wonder if it will ever be completed once these Olympics are concluded.
Stalin made Sochi a summer home in 1954. It's a weird, but beautiful location for the Winter Olympics which has adopted the slogan "hot.cool.yours" which is indicative of the variation in temperatures. On Thursday the Olympic Village hit a high in the mid 60's, but on Tuesday night when we attended the Halfpipe competition it was well below freezing.
Many here at the NBC compound are suffering from upper respiratory infections, no doubt from the fluctuation in temperatures along with all of the construction dust which is still in the air. My only medical issue stems from nearly chopping off the end of my left thumb while cutting a piece of the delicious, hard crusted Russian bread.
Tuesday was our arrival day. It was a long day after the 9-hour flight from Newark. We grabbed a couple hours of sleep and went to watch Shaun White try to win another Gold in the Halfpipe. That didn't happen and the most memorable part of the night was the trek back from the venue at Midnight which included ascending 520 stairs separated by slippery rocks and steep inclines. Grueling to say the least and the knock out punch on a marathon two days.
I didn't set my alarm on Wednesday because I never have a problem waking up. On this morning I woke up and checked the clock on my cell phone only to find the time of 1:05 p.m. We has slept 12 hours and our bus was scheduled to leave for the U.S. versus Canadian women's hockey game in 25 minutes. To make matters worse there was no water in my hotel room. Long story made short- we made the bus.
After watching the American women blow a 1-0 third period lead and eventually lose, we killed an hour at NBC Hospitality and went watch the finals of Pairs Skating. This was a great event and it was exciting to see the hometown Russian skaters capture the Gold and Silver medals.
Being here is like being on a cruise ship. It seems the biggest meal of the day is the Midnight buffet at the NBC hospitality suite in the hotel. The witching hour seems to be 2 a.m. When most retire for the night.
This is truly the experience of a lifetime. The Russian landscape is dreary, stark and pretty basic. The military presence makes it appear even more Third World. I can't help but wonder what happens to all of these structures that the Russians built here in Sochi once the Olympics are over and life goes on. While Sochi is located in a moderate climate on the Black Sea it certainly doesn't appear to stand the test of time as one of the world's premier resort areas.
But, I will take my hat off to the Russians and their people. They are going out of their way to offer us Americans the best hospitality experience they know how to deliver. The people have been friendly, smiling and extremely cordial to Americans.
I look forward to seeing the U.S. Men's Hockey team play two games including Saturday night against USSR. As a casual hockey fan I discovered that the international hockey rink is approximately 20 feet longer and 15 wider. The American team is built on speed to accommodate the larger Olympic dimensions. We are still hoping to see Americans win some kind of medal.
While we are 9 hours ahead of EST, we seem a world away from the United States. This has been the worst case of jet lag I have ever experienced. But, The most prevalent feeling that I have this week is the appreciation of being an American citizen. Appreciate what we have and don't take anything for granted.
|Pete- PGA, Jon Miller- NBC, Ted, Mike McCarley Golf Channel|
|Ted and Cindy|
|US vs. Slovakia|
|Ted and Pete|