Berry Tramel


Bill Hancock's Olympic adventure: Stop and smell the sunrise

by Berry Tramel Modified: February 6, 2014 at 1:00 pm •  Published: February 6, 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 Olympics:

Wednesday, February 5

“(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.)

“A fisheye aerial photo of Chistye Prudy is attached.  That’s the swanky Radisson Blue Hotel in the foreground.  The apartment complex with the red roofs across the street from the hotel is Chistye Prudy. Between the hotel and the Black Sea is the red-paved path where Nicki and I walked. (This IS a fisheye photo; the hotel is not on a peninsula, but rather a pretty straight east-west beach.)   Olympic Park is on the right edge of the photo.

“About 10:30 last night, we heard explosions outside Chistye Prudy. Oh, my goodness.  Well, it was fireworks from the second rehearsal of the opening ceremony.

“Breakfast:  Pear, museli with warm milk (there’s no cold), pear, cucumber, toast with tasty raspberry preserves, orange juice, plump sausage, peas, egg casserole, cheese, green pepper.  Yes, it’s free.  You can see why I don’t need to eat the rest of the day.

“Commute from Chistye Prudy to the Main Press Center:  20 minutes by jam-packed bus.  Someone left a package of Russian Marlboros in my seat.  Another unhealthy American export.

“Cloudy this morning; perfect November football Saturday in Madison.  But then someone poked a pinhole in the overcast at just the magic time and the golden sunrise shined a flashlight through.  The orange beam was breathtaking, like something from a Bible painting.  The hardened reporters on the bus didn’t seem to notice.  I wanted to shake all of them by the shoulders and say, ‘pay attention, you nuts.  There are only so many sunrises to be viewed.  Don’t miss any!!!!’

“The mountains were not out, but it didn’t matter.

“Last night, great conversation over pretty good Russian beer with M, the press officer for the Tokyo summer Olympic games.  And with a Eastern European gentleman who has made a career of bouncing around, helping countries bid for the Olympics.

“They have now finished whitewashing the front of that one shack along the bus route.  And added a mural  It’s symbolic; things are better every day. I love riding past the residential areas

“Volunteer du jour: Gunter, from Hamburg, Germany. Actually not a volunteer.  Paid by the exhibit company contracted to handle shipments to the MPC offices.  Warm, friendly, happy.

“Women’s hockey news conference today.  The whole team attended.  The girls reminded me of Karen Hancock’s soccer players: smart, happy, cute.  Did I say smart?  Plus they’re great hockey players.  Several reporters asked about the rivalry with Canada.  It’s as if someone asked the Red Sox in spring training if they are thinking about the Yankee series.

“We say, ‘I don’t speak Russian.’ But don’t we really mean ‘I don’t speak Cyrillic?’  I need to ask Dr. Eddie Frost.

“Lunch:  Salmon on a nice bed of vegetables, with friend Dave Morgan.  At the ‘European Restaurant’ near the Main Press Center.  Terrific.

“Question from Arkansas:  ‘Story in today’s paper that huge numbers of stray dogs are roaming the various venues, and that a Russian company has been hired to round them up and “eliminate the problem” so that our country “won’t be embarrassed” … Any truth?’ Answer from Sochi:  I have heard this rumor. Good grief.  I have seen maybe three dogs on the streets.  They’ve been friendly.

“Question from Dallas:  Do you have any concerns about secure WiFi or hackers? Answer:  I really don’t.  I have not talked to anyone who has had any trouble.

“Met a reporter today who has a spectacular hotel room in the mountains.  ’My only complaint is that the mini-bar doesn’t work.  I feel guilty even mentioning that to you.’

“Comment from friend in Kansas:  ‘I read an article on Yahoo about how bad things are for the poor reporters over there.  Those reporters complaining about their hotel rooms are spoiled and pampered.  Anyone who has traveled abroad knows that conditions are never perfect. I think the complainers should have stayed at home.  Their employers gave them an expense-paid trip to a mysterious place on the other side of the world. I would gladly have taken their place.

“Fact is, I have heard several athletes say the athletes’ villages are beautiful; they’re happy.  And the hotels (yes, some did not get finished) in the mountains are beautiful.  I know the folks in the nice hotels here in the Coastal Cluster are also happy, too.

“Weather:  Gray beautiful Russian clouds.  High 46, low 36.  Breezy.

“Note from Nicki to Russian professor-friend in Norman who sent an email to her in Russian:  ’Well, I wish I could respond in Russian, but I’m sad to say I’m just at a few words.  I did get the language book and go through some of the lessons.  It was very helpful, but I didn’t get very far.  However, I’m now learning on the fly because we have two Russian drivers who speak only a little English.  I’ve become the translator between our office and them (which is really sad!).  But they’re very nice and we’re communicating.  Lots of gesturing and a few words. I  did copy the alphabet from the book and it’s a big help.  I can figure out a lot of the signs.  Of course, the ones in the Olympic park are in both Russian and English so that’s helping me to remember the letters.  I hope to learn (and use) a few words every day.  It’s a great experience.’

“The IOC conducted a meeting with all photographers today.  I guess 200 people were there.  Among the rules: (1) no impeding other photographers; (2) no ladders or stools; (3) no saving seats by leaving photo bags in them; (4) no tripods; (5) to protect others, monopods must be collapsed; (6) be civil.

“Question from North Carolina:  Are they covering signing date over there?    (Answer:  Clearly their priorities are misplaced.)

“Note from Washington, D.C. — They were reporting on radio today that the water is brown. I am sure you are drinking bottled water, but the shower could get interesting.  (Response:  Good grief.  I have seen NO brown water.)

“We are indeed drinking and brushing our teeth in bottled water, as we did in Beijing and Seoul and Mexico and, well, you get the picture.  I did see a video of brown water coming out of pipes.  I imagine brown stuff is coming out of pipes somewhere in Kansas City tonight, too.

“Russia Fact that surely must be true because somebody told me: 1939, Russia signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact for non-aggression with Germany, but Germany broke it in 1941 and invaded Russia.

“A friend said we’re never far away from college football and the Southeastern Conference, even clear over here.  I bit and said, ‘why?’ He said, ‘because you’re close to Georgia.’ Ba-dump-bump.

“Daily reminder:  it’s 10 hours different from Central time.  So when it’s 10 a.m. in Knob Noster, it’s 8 p.m. in Sochi.

“Nicki Hancock is about 1/32nd Russian.  Her great grandparents came from Norka, Russia, through Ellis Island to Kansas about when Dwight Eisenhower was in diapers.  Then they went south to Oklahoma.  They were Germans who had gone to Russia.  Their anglicized name is Pfenning.  Wish we had time to find Norka while we’re in the neighborhood.  Actually Nicki thinks Norka exists no more.  Who knows.

“Dinner: Peanut butter and crackers.

“The bus tonight had a television set, showing a movie.  Everything is coming together quite nicely.

“What a privilege to be here!  Every day is an adventure.  Sochi. Hot. Cool. Yours.”



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...
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