Tag Archives: Figure Skating

To Russia, with love: My Sochi experience at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games

I love the Olympics. One of the reasons I got into journalism was because of the Olympics. It’s a phenomenal event that brings together people from every corner of the world. When I was asked to work in Sochi, I didn’t even bat an eyelash.

I had wonderful experiences in both Vancouver and London and I expected the same in Russia. However, when the 30-day mark rolled around before my departure date, the headlines were filled with information on terrorist threats, the Olympic host being a massive target, and basically that anyone going to the area would be at risk. All of the focus on this wonderful sporting event was gone and instead, the focus was on safety. It’s something I was not used to.

Three days before I was supposed to leave, the headlines intensified. I registered with the Canadian government in case I needed to search for an embassy during my time in Sochi. South of the border, safety dominated American newscasts. Athletes said they didn’t want their families to come with them. There was even talk of the United States sending their own Navy ships to the Black Sea in case a quick escape was needed.

I had absolute stomach turning anxiety on the day I left, but the good news was, I already had colleagues in Sochi. They sent me pictures and gave me briefings about the surroundings and security presence. They felt safe. Maybe they didn’t put my mind at ease 100%, but it definitely helped.

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Welcome to Sochi!

My journey to Sochi was simple one: Calgary – Frankfurt – Sochi. When I arrived in Russia, I was greeted by one of the many friendly volunteers. These people were superstars. They were always smiling and ready to help if you had any questions.

When we arrived in the media village, it was as expected. Forget all the stories you saw on Twitter, the accommodations were just fine. It was clean. There was plenty of space. It was quiet. There was Internet. We were in a secure area that was surrounded by a gate that was guarded by police.

I was covering figure skating this time around. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I always knew figure skating was a popular Olympic sport, but I never really knew how fanatical people were about it until I got to Sochi. The Russians had strong skaters in every event. There’s a reason they took the gold in the inaugural team portion. They were just that good.

It was phenomenal to see the kind of drive the skaters had. They spent countless hours day in and day out perfecting their routines for the four minutes the eyes of the world were on them.

The Canadians had a strong showing in figure skating. They left Russia with a silver in the team event, silver in men’s and silver in ice dance. There was plenty of controversy along the way. Did I feel that Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir deserved gold? Of course I did, but I wasn’t a judge. It was fascinating learning about all of the different elements and finally knowing what a proper twizzle was supposed to look like.

Kevin Dineen and women's hockey team

Kevin Dineen and women’s hockey team

In my spare time, I focused on the other Canadian athletes. Our country not only impressed in the field of play, but off of it too. Other journalists were constantly commenting on the friendly and polite nature of our athletes. That’s something to be very proud of.

One of the highlights of my journey to Russia was the success of the women’s hockey team. They went into the tournament as the underdogs. The team must have used it as a rallying point, because they looked stronger than ever. Head coach Kevin Dineen had a game plan and he stuck to it. The final versus the US is one of the most exciting games I’ve ever watched. The resiliency and drive helped them bring home their fourth consecutive gold. Amazing.

Olympic Park

Olympic Park

Olympic Park itself was lovely. All of the venues were top class and they will be for years to come. Sadly, it’s just window dressings. The area outside the park is obviously struggling economically. It really saddens me to think that all of these people who worked at the Olympics are going back to being unemployed and have to wait for the next event to roll around. You could see how much it meant to the workers and volunteers when you spent time talking to them. They were all so genuine.

I left Sochi with a better appreciation for the country I live in. I’ve always been a very proud Canadian and now, even more so. We are very lucky. When I arrived home in Calgary, I had this sense of pride and calm wash over me as I waited in the Customs line.

A big thank you to everyone in Russia. Spasiba.

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Celebrate ’88: 25 years later, but feels like yesterday

February 13th, 2013 marks the 25th anniversary of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in my beautiful homecity of Calgary.

25 years. A quarter of a century. Wow. I was quite young when the world was welcomed by Calgary, but I’m reminded of the wonderful event on a daily basis. All I need to do is look west to see Canada Olympic Park. While I was going to university, I walked by the Olympic Oval on my way to class. When you go skating at Olympic Plaza downtown, you just need to look around to see constant reminders of those amazing two weeks.

One of the most memorable images of 1988 is the logo. It remains very unique, combining the city and country through the letter C and includes one of Canada’s most well known symbols, the maple leaf, and an outline of a snowflake.

The logo features a unique C design. There are five large and five small letters Cs to represent Calgary and Canada - all in the shape of a maple leaf and a snowflake.

The 1988 Olympic Winter Games are also unforgettable because of the emergence of pin collecting. People from all  over the world gathered at pin “hubs” across the city, trying to add to their collections through trades. The pin phenomenon is still mainstay at both the Summer and Winter Games.

The 1988 mascots, Hidy and Howdy, had a true Calgary flare. Not only were they polar bears, but they (of course!) also donned their cowboy gear to play hommage to the Stampede. It was tough not smile when I picked up this Hidy and Howdy pin at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. Hidy and Howdy pinSunIce jackets were worn by Olympic volunteers. From time to time, you see them make an appearance around the city and it makes you chuckle a little bit. The distinct 80s style and pastel colours are pretty hard to miss. I did a quick scour of eBay and if you’re interested in picking up one of these gems, it’s going to set you back anywhere from $80.00 to over $300.00.

How about this song? “Can You Feel It?” was penned by master Canadian composer David Foster and gives me goosebumps to this day. All you need to do is hear the first five seconds and you’ll be flooded with memories. The composition may have an 80s synth sound, but it’s so memorable, the piece is used during the Bellagio Hotel fountain show in Las Vegas.

There’s not enough space to mention all of the athletes and amazing moments from 1988. All I will say is The Battle of the Brians, Eddie the Eagle, and the Jamaican bobsled team. Personally, my favorite memory is Elizabeth Manley capturing silver in figure skating at the Saddledome. She had a delightful, up-tempo routine in a pink gown and became a true Calgarian when she popped on a white Stetson.

What do you remember? Celebrate 88!

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