SOCHI, RUSSIA – Final thoughts and parting shots on the Sochi Games:
I think the competition was a smashing success despite the attempts of many to undermine it.
The Western media — primarily American — which tried to ruin the Winter Olympics beforehand with a litany of stories about security risks failed miserably.
The sad part is that they did succeed in intimidating some of the athletes to convince their families not to come and watch. That is really a shame.
I was convinced before I arrived here that it would be the safest place on Earth during the event, which is exactly what it was. The hysterical, over-the-top stories about the possibility of suicide bombers, chemical weapons and whatever else, were easily debunked once you arrived here.
The compound was an absolute fortress. The security people did their jobs very professionally. Everyone went out of their way to be cooperative.
I can honestly say that in the three weeks I have been here, I never felt threatened once in any way.
The Western media also came up short in their attempts to try and turn the athletic celebration into a referendum on gay rights, human rights, ecological rights and any other rights.
Try as they might, their efforts to spoil the event and turn it into the 1980 Moscow Games, fell well short of the mark.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Sochi organizing committee and the thousands of volunteers did a wonderful job of putting everything together.
The lone blemish came in figure skating, when Yuna Kim was robbed of the gold medal. This unfortunate incident will cast a shadow over the Winter Games held here for a long time.
Adelina Sotnikova will go down as a footnote in history. People outside of Russia will remember what Kim had to unfairly endure.
I will say that what I enjoyed most was getting the chance to see the great skaters of the world practice day in and day out. It was absolutely incredible.
To be able to see Yuna, Mao Asada, Yuzuru Hanyu, Patrick Chan and all the other elite skaters every day was a real treat.
It is one thing to go to an event and see them all in their sparkling outfits, it is another to witness how hard they work while training several days in a row.
It is tough enough to get to a practice in Japan with the logistical issues of where the skaters are working out and on what days. To have all of the best practicing in such close proximity was fantastic.
Being able to attend the USA-Russia hockey game gave me a big charge. While sitting in the fourth row behind the glass I pondered all of the rich history that the previous matchups had brought.
The performance of the Russian athletes in topping the medal table at home was impressive. You could tell that it really meant something to them when watching them compete.
It was certainly unusual to cover the Winter Olympics yet only see the snow far off in the distance atop the mountains. Though this may have had a cosmetic effect on TV, it did nothing to detract from what went on inside the venues.
One of the humorous moments of my stay came in the first few days. I bought a bottle of apple juice for the second day in a row down in the canteen and told the cashier how good it tasted.
He smiled at me and said, “That’s because it’s from Mother Russia.”
The transportation worked like clockwork. Whether it was from my hotel to the Olympic Park or inside moving around to the venues, little time was spent waiting. This was really helpful.
Coming into the massive Main Press Center and International Broadcast Center complex each day was invigorating. The media spent so much time in it that it quickly felt like home.
The friendships made here will last a long time. Meeting new people and seeing old friends was wonderful.
The days were long and the nights short. The exhaustion that greeted me each morning when I woke up rapidly dissipated as the joy of realizing that I was covering the Olympic Games set in.
With each new day came a new challenge, but I looked forward to it and relished it.
I have been blessed in my life to have worked in the NBA and the NFL Europe, and to have covered many major events, including seven Super Bowls, the World Cup and the 1998 Nagano Games.
Being here ranked with the biggest thrills of my professional life. I only wish that everyone could experience what I did.
It was absolutely intoxicating.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5