I have been to Russia several times before on business and you can tell that the Russians are very proud of their Olympics. I have never seen so many Russian flags, pennants, red, white and blue facial tattoos and other branding.
I know the press has been looking for dirty laundry. Sure there have been a few hiccups, but then again, when you think what the Russians have done in six years since being awarded these Games, they have done a great job. I have complaints but they are minor and live with these as a matter of accepting the Russian ways.
I went to the Olympic Park to attend the Canada versus Norway men’s hockey game on Feb. 13. The few hundred Canadians that were there made a lot of noise and folks knew we were there. It was an exciting game and Norway played really well. I’m not surprised. Once on a trip to Norway I went to a game and was impressed at the skill level.
I also had a pass into Canada House, a great concept and a place for family and friends of Canadian athletes to meet and greet. When I was there the Federal Minister of Sport was hanging out. Some athletes came by to show their medals. Canadian corporations that are COC sponsors can have some branding and activation opportunities. Reminded me of my days at Alpine Canada. Good to see sponsors get a chance to host clients and promote their products and services while still respecting the IOC policy of being mainly brand-free in the field of play. Also when I was there Roch Voisine provided some entertainment. A well-done effort by the COC.
I have tried to use Russian and the Russian people try to use English, but there had been some funny developments. The term ‘check-in’ at the volunteer centre on the mountain to the Russians sounds like ‘chicken’ and that is what they say. So we are calling it the ‘Chicken Place!’ And the word ‘snack’ comes out as ‘snake’. I am sure I have butchered many Russian words as well, but they have been very helpful to help me learn more Russian and improve it.
Meanwhile security is as tight as ever. I have a photo of myself with two Russian policemen carrying some serious cannons! Last year I saw one policeman dressed this way, I asked for a photo and it was a definite “nyet”. This year the police are firm but friendlier and agreed to pose in a photo with me.
With my limited Russian I had a conversation with them and I asked where they were from. They were both from the city of Volgograd. The policemen and military are of course from all over Russia.
I also have a photo I took of soldiers in winter camouflage, hiking up the mountain to spend the night outdoors in the mountains. We were warned as volunteers that there would be armed soldiers everywhere in the bush. In other words, if you have to go in the bush when Mother Nature calls, be careful!