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 Olympics.
Saturday, Feb. 22
(Please excuse the typos and bad writing in this friendly message to family members. They are sweethearts and so will not object to sloppiness. Will hurry. There’s too much Olympics to explore.)
Breakfast: Pear chunk, apple chunk, toast with tasty strawberry preserves, peach juice, kidney beans, “caned” peas, plump sausage, fried egg, hard-boiled egg, cheese, and yogurt drink.
Beautiful morning. The mountains were out. Perfect.
Commute from Chistye Prudy to the Main Press Center: 20 minutes by bus along the familiar route.
A writer went to the Russia-Georgia border yesterday. It’s apparently only three or four miles away. He said he stuck his hand through the fence, drawing attention from the guards.
Oops, I blew it yesterday. The news conference rooms in the MPC are named Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Pasternak, Chekov and Tolstoy.
Daily reminder: it’s 10 hours different from Central time. So when it’s 10 a.m. in Kingfisher, it’s 8 p.m. in Sochi.
I think we need a kiss-and-cry in college football.
A writer talked to me about the NCAA tournament today. Olympic jargon is “Person X got through,” meaning the athlete advanced to the next round of competition. I think we need to say “Kansas State got through.”
These Russian volunteers are just awesome. They have to be tired. But they’re gonna run through the tape.
Volunteer du jour: Nikita, young, dark and skinny. Usher at speedskating venue. Dancing in the aisle along with the loud rock music. From Moscow. Spoke excellent English. In the 1950s, “Nikita” was the only Russian name we knew And we didn’t think about dancing when we said it. “Of course I know about him,” said this Nikita, smiling. “Only Americans and British people ask me about my name.”
Lunch: Croissant stuffed with some caramel stuff. Delicious.
Nicki made this list of some of the songs played over the PA in venues and MPC (collected with some help from the young people in the office)—not including music played during figure skating competition.
“In God’s Country” U2
“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” Bob Marley
Chicken Dance music played on the organ
“We will, we will rock you”
“I Love It” (I crashed my car into the bridge)
Green Acres theme song, played on the organ
“Twilight Zone” (Roadkill Remix) at least that’s what Shazam said
“Back in Time” Pitbull
“Skyfall” and other Adele
“Hard Day’s Night”
Chant of clap clap clap-clap-clap-clap clap clap Let’s Go – fans from lots of countries were clapping in sequence but we weren’t sure what they were saying at the Let’s Go part.
“So What” (I’m a rock star)
“Happy Together” (I can’t see me loving nobody but you) played by the band from the Netherlands at speed skating
“Ticket to Ride”
Weather: High 54, low 43 here at the Coastal Cluster. High 48, low 42 up at the awesome Laura cross-country ski and biathlon venue.
Most of the athletes are pals. They compete against each other every year—every week in some cases. They know each other’s parents, siblings and dogs. Many train together, French skiers learning tricks from Belarus coaches. They battle like crazy for medals and then hug each other.
The Olympics is a big county fair, a celebration of humankind, a coming-together like nothing else in the world. People back home may be medals-hungry. Here the feeling is more like a festival.
There are almost always tears. There’s a fine line between tears of happiness and tears of grief.
“Lucy Finishes only Fourth” is a silly headline. “Only” fourth-best in the whole entire world? We’d all give anything to be the fourth-best in the world at whatever we do—welder, plumber, basketball referee.
We saw a longtrack speedskating battle between a Russian and American. The Russian had a huge lead, but the young American slowly began to gain ground. At the end, the Russian won by a step or two. They skated a lap and then the American stopped and threw up. He had given everything he had.
They were racing for 24th place.
THAT is sports.
Russia Fact that surely must be true because somebody told me: Population of major cities: Moscow, 11,514,300; Saint Petersburg, 5,227,567; 13 others of more than one million
Dinner: Peanuts, pistachios and Baltika 7 beer with friend Dan Helms. Then fajitas, cookies and wine with Nicki at USA House.
Nicki and I enjoyed the figure skating gala exhibition tonight. The medalists always put on a show like ice capades. The Iceberg arena was nearly full and the fans loved it. Nicki had to leave after a while, to work on a transportation issue. .
Spied my old pal Matt Hesser, a volunteer at USA House. I didn’t know he was here. He didn’t know I was here. He was guarding the back door. I was in disguise, wearing my hat and parka. I hovered in his view as he talked to a woman. She left, and he looked at me and said, “can I help you, sir?”
I said softly, “I know you have an internal alarm that goes off when a Sooner is within 20 feet of you. It must have malfunctioned in Russia.”
He hollered, “Bill Hancock, is it you?!” He hugged me about 97 times.
Matt is a devoted OSU Cowboy fan. (Redundancy alert.) We met when he volunteered for at the Kansas City Final Four 26 years ago. He and his lovely wife, Sue, live in Colorado Springs.
He said, “to paraphrase Will Rogers, I only met one Sooner I ever liked. And it’s you.”
Matt is 71 years old and plans to ski near the alpine center Monday afternoon.
What are the chances a Sooner and a Cowboy would unexpectedly hook up in Russia? What a world.
About midnight, a man began singing a Russian song outside the wine bar beneath our fourth-floor window. It was loud, like a rhinoceros at karaoke. I tried to make a recording but it didn’t take. We were tired enough not to worry.
What a privilege to be here! Every day is an adventure. Sochi. Hot. Cool. Yours. Da Svidanya for now.