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Berry Tramel  


Bill Hancock's Olympic adventure: the most hated man Sochi

by Berry Tramel Modified: February 18, 2014 at 11:00 am •  Published: February 18, 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.

Monday, February 17

(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, Russian salad (peas, cheese and stuff), toast with nasty orange marmalade, orange juice, corn, plump sausage, yummy mullet porridge, tasty pork cutlet, cheese, and delicious strawberry yogurt drink.

Breakfast note No. 1:  I know it’s really “millet” porridge.  But I think “mullet” is cuter.  And the sign at the breakfast buffet does say “mullet.”

Breakfast note No. 2:  orange marmalade may be the worst food ever invented.  It tastes like pureed orange peel with a dash of motor oil.

Low overcast this morning. No mountains.

A writer went to a place called “The London Bar” in Sochi and had a nifty cheeseburger and beer.  That says it all.

Did I say the concession sands have bottles of Coke, Coke Light, Fanta and PowerAde. The cost is about $2.75.  There’s no ice for drinks, by the way.  No ice anywhere, in fact.  Of course, the reason is that the ice would come from tap water.  And tap water is a  no-no.

Met and got recruited by four American evangelicals in the park the other day.  They were nice enough.  I told them I was the choir.

Commute from Chistye Prudy to the Main Press Center:  20 minutes by bus.

Wow, Nicki and I were SO lucky to have visited the mountains yesterday. The visibility is zero up there today and it’s likely several events will be delayed.  Lucky, lucky, lucky.

Forgot to mention about the gondola rides in the mountains.  The Russians say gon-DOE-luh.  We say GONE-du-luh, of course.  Tuh-MAY-to, tuh-MAH-to.  Let’s don’t call the whole thing off.  Not yet.

Volunteer du jour:  Dominic, young like almost all the others.  Stopped us from taking photos of the broadcast positions during practice at the speedskating venue.  That’s happened at other Olympics.  I’m not sure why.  In excellent English, Dominic apologized.  He was sheepish and shy.  I asked how he had acquired such excellent control of the English language.   “I’m from New York City,” he said.

Two writers have visited Stalin’s dacha in Sochi.  They rolled billiard balls on his pool table, saw his furniture, etc.

Note from my favorite seventh grader in Stillwater (well, actually, my favorite seventh grader in the entire world)  – How can you not tell Coke from Pepsi?  I’m simply flabbergasted.

Lunch:  Croissant with chocolate filling.  Quite delicious, if a little tout d’suite.  (Sorry.  Punning between language is unfair.)

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

Note from Plano — Have you noticed that at several angles ice dancer Charlie Davis looks like Nate Hancock?

Three things of interest:  (1) a young Russian said Nikita Khrushchev was “popcorn”; which I did not understand at all; no doubt something got lost in the translation; (2) a middle-aged American reporter did not know that Khrushchev had said “we will bury you,” and (3) a 20-something reporter had never heard of Wally Pipp.

The wait to get into the only souvenir store in Olympic Park continues to be an hour—two hours at times.  It’s not worth the wait.

Olga, the woman in charge of marketing for the company that runs the store, said, “we definitely underestimated the interest in this.   We didn’t expect this demand….it is far more than we would ever have expected.”  She said there is no significant tradition of Russians buying t-shirts and other souvenirs.  But folks are going nuts over this shop.

There are thousands—millions—of great places to fall and get injured here at the Olympics.  And no yellow tape to mark steps.  So far, so good for me—except for that little tumble down the hill a few days ago.

The American journalists are playing hurt.  One sprained her thumb picking up her backpack.  Another fell off a curb and sprained his ankle badly.  Another stubbed his toe on the threshold of his room and has been hobbling for three days.  A photographer spent two days in bed with 103 fever.  A press officer did the same thing.  I am wondering if skin can come off from washing hands too much.

Weather: Foggy, drizzly and dark this morning.  It’s conclusion-of-Casablanca weather.  And then the sun appeared about mid-day.  Here at the coastal cluster, high 52, low 45.  Up at Laura cross-country ski and biathlon center, high 34, low 30.

Russia Fact that surely must be true because somebody told me:  Those onion-spire towers?  Word is, they originated because the snow would fall off of them.

Anton, a volunteer, said his family lives in St. Petersburg (Russia.)  “They call me to say they are jealous of our warm weather here.”

They’ve assigned the USA’s quarterfinal hockey game to Shayba arena, the small one.  That’ll create a severe ticket crunch. Think playing the BCS championship game at Allen High School: great stadium but not nearly enough seats.  And significant demand for ice dance tickets, too.  I’ll be a candidate for “most hated person at the Olympics” for a couple of days.

Just decided that ice dancing is my second-favorite Winter Olympics sport, right behind cross-country skiing.  The music is almost always terrific and so is the dancing.

Dinner:  Wheat Thins.  One-quarter of an excellent chocolate cinnamon roll from the Canadians, who went to the Cinnabon in Sochi.  Yes, there’s a Cinnabon store in Sochi!  What a great world!

Talked to a photographer from Luxembourg today.  He’s the only journalist here from his country.  “The others could not make arrangements for hotel rooms,” he said.  He has been to every Olympics since 1976.

Also ran into SI’s Austin Murphy. We discussed his excellent piece on Super Bowl halftimes.  We did not discuss at length his one-sided treatment of my employer.  He was dashing off to a television shot anyway.

Have spent considerable time here with Joe Posnanski, one of the truly good guys.  We had discussed heading off for an adventure, but ticketing has bound me to the office.  (We climbed the Great Wall of China together, and also went to the James Bond exhibition in London.  The Great Wall and a Great Chinese Dinner afterward were a real highlight.)

What a privilege to be here!  Every day is an adventure.  Sochi. Hot. Cool. Yours. Da Svidanya for now.

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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