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:
“Please excuse the typos and bad writing in this friendly message to family who will not object to sloppiness. Will hurry. There’s too much Olympics to explore.)
“The frazzled front-desk females at Chistye Prudy did have our room key last night. Hooray! We did get clean towels! Our trash did get emptied! We will never get a shower curtain, but I am getting less water on the floor every day.
“Breakfast: chunk of cucumber, quarter pear, muesli with warm milk (there will be no cold), toast with awesome apricot preserves, very dry turkey like it had been left outside for two days after Thanksgiving, peas, green pepper. No yogurt this morning.
“After breakfast Nicki and I walked to the Black Sea. It’s only about 100 yards away from our apartment, but I hadn’t seen it yet. So we took off in the fresh, frosty sunrise.
“I had picked one street that I thought went to the water and we took it. We walked along a fence beside some sorta shacks but got stopped by a dead-end fence. We went a block west—past the luxurious Radisson Blue Hotel, strolled on a new wide asphalt pathway past some more homes, and found a beautiful walkway along the sea. The beach was dark with sand, then rocks down to the water. The cold morning prevented from dipping our toes into the water. We saw one other walker. He stopped, pulled out some binoculars and peered out at a ship. The water was pretty calm. It’s a lovely spot.
“Commute from Chistye Prudy to the Main Press Center: 15 minutes. The bus is getting more crowded. There’s a special entrance to Olympic Park for staff members; folks were waiting in a block-long line to enter.
“Nicki has the Greatest Invention Known to Mankind: a translation app. She says something into her mobile phone, presses a button, and voila! The phone plays it back in Russian. The Valeriys (the drivers) love it. It also types her words. It wouldn’t work for the Gettysburg Address, but perfect for ‘please go to the mountain village and pick up the ski jumpers and bring them to the Main Press Center.’
“Nicki is IT Girl. Copy Girl. Sole Lackey. Pretty.
“Volunteer du jour: Galina, 19, volunteering at transportation help desk. Nicki needed to tell the Valeriy the Tall (one of our drivers) to go to the airport to pick up Tom Kelly, then drive him to Ekaterina apartments. He had never been there before. It was like telling a Martian how to get to Arthur Bryant’s to pick up a full slab and take it to Overland Park by way of KCI (airport). So Nicki told Galina the plan, and she wrote it all out (in Russian, of course) for Valeriy. It was amazing.
“Galina had spent a year as an exchange student in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. ‘It was the most amazing year of my life. The family read with me, and we went to the Colonial place….what is it called? Yes, Williamsburg! Then I was in an essay contest to tell how I would use my time in America when I got back home. We went to the main court—what is it called? Yes, the Supreme Court. They have a little balcony where you can go to watch. It was amazing. And then I met a senator from North Carolina. Oh, God! Oh, God!’
“She clutched her chest; I thought she was going to cry. I thought I was going to cry, myself. It was as if Galina had met the Queen, or the President, or Roy Williams. She is a remarkable young woman and I hope our paths will cross again.
“Lunch: Peanut butter, crackers, granola bar, some awesome Russian candy-covered cranberries, water.
“Weather: The mountains were out again this morning. Beautiful! Another sunny day, although a row of clouds snuck in front of the mountains this afternoon. High 45, low 30.
“Russia Fact that surely must be true because somebody told me: Catherine II ‘the Great’ ruled in 1762–96.
“Two more reporters were at the mountain venues today and reported that they are absolutely breathtaking. I’m sure NBC will show them to you many times. Nicki had said the same thing. I will see them next week.
“Another writer was dismayed because she has not seen any security people carrying guns. ’You see guns at the BCS championship game, but not here? How can that be?’ This is the world of journalism: if there was a scowling jack-booted Drago on every corner, reporters would shout, ‘see, we told you our lives were in danger! Look at all those guns!!!’
“Oh, the mega grocery store has Sensodyne (sp?) toothpaste. But no ground beef.
“The line at security this morning was longer than ever. Folks took it good-naturedly, even when one young Russian jumped in front of about 12 of us.
“At security, we hold our credential in front of a scanner. Our photo pops up on the other side and a security worker checks to see if we’re who we’re supposed to be. After about two seconds, a little ‘walkie man’ flashes. Then we place our parkas, credentials and bags in a bin, put the bin on a conveyer belt, airport-style, and walk through a scanner. It always goes off when I pass, because of my hip. I pat it, the security person scans it, and I go happily along.
“Well, today, the security man—security boy, really—said, ‘let me see.’ I said, ‘well, the prosthesis is inside my body, you can’t see it.’
“’Come here; we will look.’ He pointed to a closet among the 12 mag-and-bag stations.
“‘But it’s inside me; you won’t be able to see it.’ I decided I would have to drop my pants and let him see the scar.
“Maybe he thought the same thing and wasn’t thrilled by the notion. He conversed with three other workers and said, ‘OK, you can pass.’
“Then I made a rookie mistake: I grabbed my parka and credential from the bin and walked into the MPC, up the escalator and into the shiny marble great hall. I enjoy watching a video showing construction of the venues in the mountains. It was then that I realized I had left my backpack at the security station.
“I dashed back, breathless. I was pretty sure they had blown up my bag as a suspicious package—rightly so—and that I would deservedly be without computer and sunglasses and granola for the rest of the Olympics.
“I went in the ‘exit’ door and began to look around.
“A security man came up to me and said, ‘Mr. William Hancock? You come here.’
“I spied my bag on a little table along with a couple of other things. I didn’t even care that the security people had opened the bag. I didn’t even care that he knew my name—thank goodness Nicki had made me put a luggage tag on the backpack when we were at Dulles. ’Do not forget,’ he said.
“‘I promise. Spasibo. Spasibo. Sasibo.’ He didn’t smile. I didn’t warrant a smile. I had earned Siberia and yet received a pass. This time. It was a total rookie mistake. Or a total distracted 63-year-old mistake. Believe me, I won’t forget again.
“The press officers met with NBC staffers today. Both groups are highly professional. The focus was on access to athletes. A person representing each NBC show—Today, Nightly News, etc., outlined its needs. A medal-winning athlete will be exhausted by the time he or she goes through the process.
“Short-track speedskating news conference today. Many questions about Apollo Ono. Athletes handled them well.
“When it’s 10 a.m. in Little Rock, it’s 8 p.m. in Sochi.
“Dinner: Beer! Crackers, granola. Delicious candy from my friend the Canadian press officer.
“My Olympics colleague Craig, from Excelsior Springs, is en route to Sochi as we speak. He called from Moscow to report that his wife’s luggage had not made it. Oh, what a nightmare. ’She has nothing,’ he said. For years, I have carried one set of clean clothes and some toiletries in a carry-on bag for just such an incident I always think, ‘you idiot; this is ridiculous.’
“I called the appropriate USOC folks who will start the process with United Airlines and track the bag down tomorrow. I hope.
“What a privilege to be here! Every day is an adventure. Sochi Hot. Cool. Yours.”