Berry Tramel


Bill Hancock's Olympic adventure: Walking to work in Sochi

by Berry Tramel Modified: February 15, 2014 at 10:35 am •  Published: February 15, 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.

Friday, February 14

(Please excuse the typos and just lousy 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, cucumber chunk, green pepper chunk, toast with tasty raspberry preserves, orange juice, corn, “caned” peas, plump sausage, porridge, cheese, and yogurt drink.

Commute:  took advantage of the beautiful morning by continuing a personal tradition and walking from my living quarters to the Main Press Center.  This one felt like cheating because it was just an easy two miles and change.  Started the tradition in 1984 by walking from the Biltmore Hotel to the MPC in the Los Angeles convention center.

We saw about 25 Chistye Prudy housekeepers getting their morning assignments on the sidewalk.

Walked through about four blocks of fairly new houses here.  All had red roofs.  Craig Bohnert accompanied me.  A little dog yapped at us in Russian.  A man sat on his front porch.  It was an upscale neighborhood, but roosters crowed from backyards.  They were upscale roosters, no doubt.  Forsythia bloomed yellow, just like back home.

We heard footsteps behind us.  Then I saw shadows.  It was two other Olympic folks also walking to work.  We passed the partially constructed building that had been wrapped on cloth painted to look like a building.  And some pigeons cooing at us in Russian.

More than half the walkabout was inside Olympic Park.  It was fun to see the Olympics wake up.

Nicki brought Valentine candy and valentines for each member of the.  Everyone loved it.

Note from Overland Park – PS, are you sure you know what Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 sounds like?  Maybe you’ve heard it and not recognized it.

Response — Uh, yes, I know it by heart.  I used to play it on mother’s and daddy’s 78 rpm records, on the old record player.  Here’s a link:

We’re advised to carry our passports at all times.  Previously, I locked mine in the hotel safe when I arrived and carried a photocopy.

At the Olympics, when you leave your hotel room, it’s wise to make sure you have the three C’s:  cell phone, credential and keys.  Appropriately it’s CCCP here, adding the passport.

Yesterday I garbled a reference to the Hollywood Squares, a double-decker set of cubicles where local affiliates broadcast.  London had the same thing.  I expected Paul Lynde to pop out and say something funny.

Cheerleaders at hockey.  One kind with short skirts.  One kind with very, very short shirts.

These volunteers are tremendous.  They want to make things right.  Bravo!

Grandfather Frost—sorta the Russian version of Santa Claus—was in Olympic Park today.  Dressed all in red with a beard down to his knees, he led children in a little parade around a Christmas tree.  The kids loved it.  Volunteer Artyom told me his name is something like “Ded Moroz.”  That’s Grandfather Frost in English, I think. (It could also be translated as Old Man Frost, or Father Frost.)  Anyhow, Grandfather sang/chanted some songs and people joined.  Artyom said people retain Christmas trees about one month.  What was Grandfather Frost doing here on February 14?  Artyom didn’t know.  The Christmas tree looked just like one we saw at Wal-Mart in October.   (I wanted to ask if Christmas season begins in the summer here, like at home.  But decided they’d think I was another silly American.)

Grandfather Frost’s uniform is more spectacular than Santa Claus’s.  A woman in a beautiful Carolina blue dress was with him.  I thought she might be his agent, but a Russian said she was the snow maiden instead.    It’s all quite charming.

Artyom said New Year’s is bigger than Christmas.  A woman nearby shook her head “nyet.”   Grandfather Frost delivers his presents in person New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.  (This year, he will bring a College Football Playoff to all good little boys and girls.)

USA-Russia curling game tonight.  Bagpipers played in the opening ceremony, like always.  There were two bagpipers tonight, plus two drummers.  They led the teams out of the dressing rooms before the games.  No, they did not stick a flaming spear into the ice.

The Russian fans went crazy. They’re not great on etiquette and made noise at the wrong times, sort of like Mickelson fans cheering a shank by Tiger Woods.  But the fans were SO cute.  They screamed and clapped and chanted.

It’s like a high school wrestling tournament.  Four games happen at once.  So if China vs. Netherlands gets boring, you can watch Great Britain vs. Switzerland on mat four.  Or Germany vs. Denmark.  The place will be pandemonium one minute, then silent the next.  The Brits sang.  Some fan beat on a drum.  Another yelled his lungs out.  We wore our coats.

American Norm Reilly, an Olympic veteran, works for Olympic Broadcast Service here; we didn’t get to see him. Did talk to Rick Patzke, my old Olympics pal who is Chief Operating Officer for USA Curling and a really good guy.

Curling is as nerve-racking as college basketball.  And as poetic as morning dew.

They sweep infield after the fifth inning.  (Okay, they’re not innings; they’re ends.  Same difference.)

Volunteer du jour: Anastaysia, but said to call her Nastya.  Stood alone in the middle of a large parking lot neat to Olympic Park.  Was relieving the boredom by dancing to the music of Pit Bull on her ear buds.  Began studying English when she was 10 years old.  “I like to pract-ICE,” she said, rhyming it with head lice.  Not beautiful, but a sweetheart.  And astoundingly dedicated, evidenced by her willingness to stand in this parking lot all by herself.  I was glad to add a little humanity to her life.  She certainly added some to mine.

Lunch:  Peanut butter and crackers.  Nutri-grain.

Weather:  Just gorgeous, if a little breezy.  High 63, low 45 here in the coastal cluster.  High 57, low 41 at the alpine center.

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

Russia Fact that surely must be true because somebody told me: As of 2010, greater Sochi had a population of 346,000 people.  That’s about like Wichita.  With a lot less wheat.   But many more snowy mountains.

A bright spot in the Main Press Center is the sunflower area.  I’ll enclose a photo.  It’s warm, colorful and cheerful.  Ladies from the region provide the media with complimentary tea and cookies.  And the space—right on the way to the news conference rooms—is all decked out in a Kansas sunflower motif.  Sunflowers must be the state flower or something.

Report from Nicki:  I went down to the sunflower area to get tea and cookies.  A red-headed woman in a lovely ethnic costume gave me a tour of the display of hand-made crafts from the region (like a state) of Krasnador, where Sochi is.  Beautiful ceramics, hand-made lace, carved wood, metal work.  I also learned why there are pictures of sunflowers everywhere.  The official symbol Krasnador is the sunflower. I knew I felt at home here.  It’s connected to Kansas!

And more:  They’ve put up a large mural of a place about 100 miles from Sochi but still in Krasnador region.  She told me that in the late 1700s Catherine the Great gave the area to the Kosacks and that’s where they landed when they came to Russia.  But there was never a monument to the place, so 6 years ago the government built a village with houses of the kind they would have lived in and people go there and experience life as it was at the time.  I have the idea it’s like Williamsburg.

A volunteer today said Russians pronounce that state north of Oklahoma as kan-ZUSS.  Of course, it’s hard to know what to believe.  Another person said Russians called the money “rubbles”—like Barney Rubble.  But another said, ‘no, it’s roobles.’  Only the English call it ‘rubbles.’”

Things are really humming.  Reporters are enjoying the fantastic transportation system, the venues are nearly full, and the park is buzzing.

Dinner:  ham and cheese sandwich.  Ice cream

One American columnist, a Missouri graduate, went for a swim in the Black Sea yesterday.  Great column idea!

A hot dog costs about $3 at the concession stand.  Cabbage hotdog deal costs the same.

Each venue has a nice concession stand for the media.  Prices are fairly reasonable.  There’s soup, sandwiches and a hot entrée like salmon.  There’s no free food, although the hockey folks did have complimentary cookies.

Humid and comfortable night under the same full moon you have back at Las Colinas.  Returned Chistye Prudy by 10:30 p.m.  Slept with the window open.  A group of Japanese people returned loudly from a party at 4 a.m.

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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