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Bill Hancock's Olympic adventure: Arriving in Sochi

by Berry Tramel Published: February 1, 2014

Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, is an Oklahoman and a man for all seasons. He routinely volunteers at every Olympics and gives friends and colleagues a peek at his adventures with daily email dispatches. Everyone looks forward to them, which is why I post them on the blog, so everyone can get a feel for what’s going on around the Olympic venues. Hancock has arrived in Sochi, so here goes:

Friday, January 31

(Please excuse the typos and bad writing in this friendly message to family who won’t object much to sloppiness.. Will hurry.)

Seven-hour flight from Dulles to Frankfurt.  Two-hour layover there.  Then three-hour flight to Moscow and 90-minute scramble there.  Then two-and-a-half hour flight to Sochi.

We tried to change money at Dulles, but the whole airport was out of Rubles.  Clearly it was the holiday rush.  Frankfurt’s airport had plenty.  We had been told that we’d have to pay cash for oversize bags in Moscow, but they took credit cards.)

Met some fellow USOC folks at Frankfurt.  Seven of us traveled together from there.  Flying into Moscow on a sunny icy frigid white day was awesome.  We saw white meandering highways that turned out actually to be frozen rivers.  Their oxbows looked like ivory boomerangs.  We saw miles and miles of woods, then blocks and blocks of apartment buildings in the city.  It was everything I had expected.

Watched Captain Phillips and Last Vegas.  Two thumbs up.  (Or is it Lost Vegas?)

United flight attendants were auditioning for that restaurant that advertises “meanest waitresses.”’  Lufthansa a breath of fresh air.  Siberian Air (Moscow-to-Sochi flight) women wore red suits with little flight-attendant hats.  They were awesome.

The Moscow airport efficiency was impressive.  Happy Olympic volunteers met us like old friends and escorted us through customs.  Actually they escorted us everywhere, while practicing their English, smiling and generally making life pleasant..  First we gathered our luggage (everyone’s bag arrived; Nicki and I proudly had the smallest.)  Then the volunteers walked us through the teeming main terminal to a special counter. There stern men and women in gray suits weighed the bags.  We were entitled to 35 pounds or so, with a charge of maybe $2 for every pound of overage.  Nicki had to pay; I didn’t.

Commute: 27 hours in transit

When Nicki checked in at passport control in Moscow, the young woman officer behind the glass said, “Hancock….like Herbie!”

On Moscow-to-Sochi flight, sat next to a young German man who will patrol the Olympic park in search of ambush marketers.  He said, “will you watch the all-star game?”  Not the Super Bowl, mind you, but the NBA all-star game.  I said probably not because I’ll be working.

Breakfast on United: real tasty pasta.  Salad.  Brownie deal.  Nicki didn’t want hers so I got two.  One will go into the food drawer in Sochi for consumption later.  I think the flight attendants were having a rough day.  (We decided to count dinner as breakfast, since it was served in the morning, Sochi time.)

Second breakfast on United:  croissant, butter, jelly, fruit.

Volunteer du jour: Irina — smiling, young and a bit nervous.  Showed us through the Moscow airport.  About every third word was “please.”   I decided Irina would spend her entire Olympics in this airport, 1,000 miles from Sochi, happy as a lark.  She certainly made us happy.

When it’s 10 a.m. in Hobart, it’s 8 p.m. in Sochi.

Lunch on friendly Lufthansa flight:  Omelet, great yogurt, some ham stuff, juice, water.

Weather:  Nice walk up stairs to plane in Frankfurt.  Cold jetway in Moscow.  Bright sunshine in Moscow airport.

Dinner on S7 Airline:  Potato cake and white gravy, bread and rolls, broccoli, juice and water.

Second Dinner at Chistye Purdy media village:  meat-and-prunes salad

I always cherish the drive from the airport to the hotel at the Olympics.  It’s a great way to get to know the city.  I remember being totally flabbergasted at 1991 Havana (okay, that was the Pan Am Games) and the homeless camps in Torino.  Unfortunately we arrived in Sochi after dark in the drizzle.  The freeway was bright and beautiful.

After some wait (we got free dinner to compensate) we moved into our room and then crashed.

So far, so good.


by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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