By Peter Jerome
SOCHI, Russia - I’ve been in Sochi 48 hours and to perfectly honest things haven’t been what I expected. Arriving Thursday afternoon, the connection through Moscow was about as easy as it gets: 45 minutes to deplane, retrieve bags, go through customs and immigration, check in domestically, and make my way to the Sochi gate. No long waits, no confusion, no hassles.
The cab ride to the hotel, located somewhat near the Coastal Olympic Cluster, was problematic. The cab driver, a congenial fellow in a brand new Volkswagen Passat had never heard of the hotel and did not speak a lick of English. After driving around the outskirts of the Olympic Park we finally stumbled onto the right hotel. What he lacked in familiarity, he more than made up for in demeanor. He didn’t even attempt to charge me for his wanderings.
Opening Ceremonies are something I have never really been terribly interested in the past. Of course, when your kid is a participant that changes things a bit. Aside from watching the athletes march in, the ceremony held at the gianormous Fisht Olympic Stadium was one of the coolest things I have ever witnessed.
The show consisted of about eight choreographed scenes depicting everything Russian. Huge floats suspended from the ceiling glided by while a cast of hundreds danced and played along to the uniquely Russian music. No sooner would you think what you just saw could never be outdone, a new scene would emerge from the hangar sized ends of the stadium. Giant columns grew out of the floor then disappeared. Fiber optic lit cast members danced and twirled. Somewhere in the middle of all of this the seemingly monolithic floor gave way to a perfectly proportioned ramp and the athletes emerged. It just got more and more spectacular as the evening progressed.
All 40,000 of us just sat there for three hours with our mouths open. At one point early in the show five stars overhead morphed into the Olympic rings and one of the end rings did not deploy fully. Are you kidding me? Who cares?
Security, which is a big concern these days, is noticeably present but not overblown. Lots of surveillance. Overall, about one notch higher than what I experienced in Salt Lake in 2002 post 9/11.
Saturday afternoon I made my way up to the Mountain Cluster where the skiing and sliding venues are. The train system, constructed expressly for that purpose, was excellent. I disembarked at the end of the line and walked about 10 minutes to the newly constructed town of Rosa Khutor. The weather has been mostly sunny with temperatures in the low 30’s with little snow on the ground, but adjacent peaks at the higher elevations were covered. Lots of people out and about for the Games, but not so much that it produced annoying crowd angst.
So far I have found the facilities exceptional and the volunteers and staff pleasant and enthusiastic in ways that cannot be faked. I am looking forward to taking advantage of the availability of event tickets and taking in as much as I can.
Peter Jerome is father to Jessica Jerome and is the founder of the nonprofit Women's Ski Jumping USA. "Jumper Dads at Sochi" is a periodic blog by Peter Jerome and Bill Hendrickson who came to watch their daughters make history at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games.