Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Back to the World Cup circus

I am not sure how it exactly translates but often the World Cup "circuit" is called the "circus" and this circus rolls on for 3 more weeks.  After a blur of travel from Sochi to Zurich to Copenhagen to Helsinki I arrived in Lahti, Finland last evening.  My travel day started at 4:30 pm Sochi time (9 hrs ahead of Eastern Standard Time) on Monday and started with a bus trip to Sochi from our Rosa Khutor accommodations.  Once at the Sochi airport we staged for 3 hours before we boarded our charter flight, sat on the plane on the runway for 90 mins as baggage from previous charter was loaded on.  Three hour flight to Zurich and then stood an airport parking garage with both charter flights waited for baggage to be driven over on baggage carts and left for us to pick through like wild predators.  This process began at 11 pm Zurich time which meant 2 am in Sochi.  There were teams from all different countries and disciplines present along with FIS and IOC representatives.  Quite the spectacle and I forgot to take a picture!  By 1 am I was at my hotel that I would spend 6 hrs sleeping in and then back to the airport to fly to Helsinki via Copenhagen.  Finally in my hotel in Lahti by 4 pm Tuesday now again in a new time zone.  One hour ahead of central Europe.  Somehow a new hotel room for a week feels like home?  Strangely that is true, and I can now count how many hotel room homes I have left for the season.  Here, two in Norway, and one in Sweden and then Anchorage.

Again I should really read what I wrote in my last blog post but I will just summarize my Sochi experience.  Great venue, great competitions, mostly great weather and incredible volunteers.  A lot can be said about human rights in Russia and that the Olympics should have never been allowed there, and I agreed before I arrived and probably still do. But I left hopeful for the future.  If the Olympics can do one thing for countries like Russia it gets the world's attention for 3 weeks through a two-way mirror.  As outsiders we get to see the human side of a country and the people not the politics that represent it.  From the inside the locals get to meet the world, they get to see other countries whose politics overshadow their great people.  I can't compare to the Vancouver games because I had no expectations for the volunteers, it wasn't a concern as a Canadian.  But coming to Sochi it was a great unknown and I can say it was the most memorable and surprising part of the games.  If the younger generation that made up most of the volunteer force takes this experience with them one can only hope that it creates a wave a change for the future.  But enough of that.  Time for more pictures.

 Our crew of 9 that contained 2 French, 2 Czech, Russia, Estonia, Germany, Finland and of course a Canadian.
 Despite sharing a hotel room for 3 weeks we were still great friends and colleagues
 Our volunteer force at the Laura cross-country stadium.  Thank you!
 Rain at the hotel meant snow at the venue.  We were lucky with our location.
 At the Audi house in Sochi.  Great live dance with moving performance
 The main bus terminal in Sochi.  Puffy jackets and palm trees, that was these games.
 A short thrill ride in Audi A6 with professional driver.  Climbed up at 58% slope.  Impressive!
 Fortune to catch a hockey game while in Sochi.
 Our crew relaxing a bit at the Audi house.
Our oldest member of the group Gape enjoying the local nightlife.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Finding the groove

I have now been in Russia for 5 days.  Each day sees improvement in every aspect of life here.  We are now able to park at our hotel, drive to the venue, use the washrooms at the venue and have food in our building.  Restrictions on these and other "normal" activities have begun to ease and everyone is finding their groove.  The chain of command is so long here in Russia, it's been most important to recognize that things take time.  Those pulling the strings are far removed from who we deal with day to day, and those that we interact with daily are simply doing exactly what they have been told.  At the same time that means it's important for myself and my colleague to appear to know enough to make decisions.  We have had two competitions so far and after the ladies' event on Saturday we realized the the situation with the photographers at the finish was a disaster.  Their access point was mixed with coaches, athletes and volunteers creating one big traffic jam.
120 photographers accredited to cover cross-country.  About 100 more than World Cup.

After attempting to have changes made we determined it was better to just grab shovels, take some fences and do it ourselves....because to those on site if we are making those changes someone must have given the "ok".
Looking important!

Day two with yesterday's competition the access was seamless for the photographers but an issue arose with coaches' access that now must be fixed for our next competition tomorrow.  Tomorrow is the sprint day which means I probably won't be able to sleep tonight!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Back to Russia with love

Sorry in advance for typos.  This will be written quickly.

How quickly 4 years can go by.  I feel like I was just in Vancouver as a wax tech with the Australian Olympic team and now I am here in Sochi, Russia one day before the start of the XXII Olympiade with an office at the cross-country stadium.  I can't remember again what my last post was but I will just write about Sochi.  

I travelled to Sochi on Tuesday from Zurich.  It was a challenging day filled with polite and helpful people.  I left from skis at last weekend's World Cup in Toblach, Italy but they were brought by the Norwegian team to the airport in Zurich where we were all flying on a charter flight direct to Sochi.  Unfortunately, the skis sent were not mine and in fact that those of a lady who want them back right away.  My skis will now join me in Finland after the games for the first World Cup weekend.  It was requested that I try and send the other skis back to Italy....while waiting in line to check in for the flight.  After racing over the Swiss Post I learned that the skis were 30 cms to long to be shipped to Italy.  So I checked them into a storage locker and left 20 swiss francs for the head of FIS travel to pay to get out of storage and take to the Zurich Hilton to be stored for 3 weeks until I return.  That was the first test of the day.

When going through passport control in Zurich to head to my gate I was told that I had been in the EU for too many days and needed a work permit to be able to stay any longer....after a little bit of pleading I was allowed on my flight to Sochi, with a warning to figure something out before returning on Feb. 24.  Once landed in Sochi things went quite smoothly until passport control again where it was determined that my official accreditation/Russia visa was incorrect.  it had my birthday as Oct 19 instead of 18.  I was pulled out of line and asked to wait.  They said there was no major concern, but it would take time to fix.  After 45 minutes of sitting alone in the terminal with no one but two policeman.  I had to fill out new paperwork to re-apply for a visa and was then taken to an ATM to pay 3000 ruples (roughly $100) to finance this new visa application.  While doing that the bags of a colleague that I was to collect were removed and taken to left baggage.  But 3 hrs after my flight landed I had a new visa application filed, found the lost bags and a date with the accreditation office for the following morning.  Through all of this I can say the process was not a negative due to the incredible assistance from very polite and friendly Sochi volunteers.  They have been amazing and the highlight of a games that is not quite ready in many ways.

It's now been two days here.  I am staying in the FIS hotel.  It has all the disciplines within FIS in one place.  It's great for me to meet others from the Federation in different sports.  It's schmooze time!  I learned today that I will be in charge of getting athletes into the stadium for all mass start competitions.  I also gave my first talk during a meeting with all the represented countries during a Team Info session.  I spoke about Rule 50 which relates to all commercial markings at the games as dictated by the IOC.  I was unsure about my role coming into the games but now it have actually stepped up a bit of a level with responsibilities as we try and assist/guide the sport process to make sure the athletes have a fair competition experience and the event is a success on TV.  More updates to come.  Tomorrow will be the first official training day and the start of the games.  First event for Cross-country begins in two days.

 View from the Jury room at the finish line.
 A view back down the big uphill.

 The stadium

The mix zone.  The view from my office.