SOCHI, RUSSIA – Some thoughts and observations after a week at the Winter Olympic Games:
The Main Press Center and the International Broadcasting Center are massive structures that are connected. Inside the buildings are restaurants, coffee shops, a bank, a cleaners, a pharmacy, a gym, an Internet cafe, a hair salon, an official store and a massage place. It’s like a city.
The MPC and IBC are open and running 24 hours a day.
There are 169 accredited print journalists from Japan here among the 13,477 members of the media. The Japan Olympic Committee told me there were so many broadcast media here that they did not have an official count.
The ride from the Media Village to the Olympic Park is about 15 minutes. The buses run around the clock.
Security is tight inside the Olympic Park, but not overbearing. I am required to go through a check upon entering the MPC each day. Similar to what you would experience at the airport.
There are two small blimps flying above the Olympic Park. There is no advertising on them and they appear to be part of the security setup.
Police patrol the shore outside the fence near the main Olympic Stadium on horseback. There are several flatbed trailers there that are covered in tarps. My guess is that they are anti-aircraft weapons.
The weather here has been very mild. It has been over 15 C the past few days. Riding back from the skating venue on Thursday, the air conditioning was on in the media bus.
The conditions lend a surreal feel to the experience here, especially when I am reading about heavy snow back in Tokyo.
There are a massive number of volunteers here, including many from countries outside of Russia. They are both helpful and friendly.
The local organizers and IOC have done an incredible job of making it easy to access support when you need it. It seems that everywhere you turn, there is a Help Desk in the MPC.
I have seen many of the stray dogs that have received so much media coverage, but they look both healthy and friendly.
The other day I actually saw some horses freely grazing nearing the entrance to one of the roadways.
My hotel room in the Media Village has no telephone or television, but the sheets are clean and the water is hot. I’m thankful for that.
The Black Sea is only 200 meters from my hotel room.
The fan support for the home nation has been impressive. They have turned up in huge numbers and chanted “Rus-sia, Rus-sia, Rus-sia.”
It is interesting to walk around and see so many prominent former Olympians working in the media here. Michelle Kwan, Evan Lysacek, Maria Sharapova, etc.
In addition to the skating, another event I’m looking forward to is the Russia-USA hockey game on Saturday.
There is a wide selection of food in the MPC. There is a European restaurant, an Asian restaurant, a McDonald’s and a food court.
There is a Starbucks in the IBC.
There are live concerts each day at the Medals Plaza.
I don’t really like the idea of the medalists in many of the disciplines only receiving flowers after the competition, then having to wait to get their medals. It doesn’t seem right.
The Iceberg Skating Palace is an impressive structure both inside and out. The different shades of blue panels on the outer walls give it an interesting look.
The journalists within the MPC are separated into two huge rooms — one for photographers and one for everyone else.
There are 72 large screen TVs in the room for journalists. Each one is approximately 132 cm (52 inches) in size.
My desk in the MPC is across from the staff of the Boston Globe. One of their writers, John Powers, has covered 19 different Olympics and once shared a Pulitzer Prize.
Filip Bondy, a sports columnist for the New York Daily News, is here. I knew him from my NBA days when he covered the Nets (then based in New Jersey).
I saw columnist Christine Brennan from USA Today the other day. I remember reading her classic skating book “Inside Edge” while covering the 1998 Nagano Games.