A ‘Stampede Breakfast’ in Russia: Dispatch from a Sochi Volunteer

02.11_web_Downhill-Gate-panelI know I wrote about how the Russians shuffled the international volunteers aside. It was even mentioned in a CBC interview.

For those of you who don’t know very much about ski racing, within the Race Organizing Committee  (ROC) there are Chiefs: Chief of Race, Chief of Course, Chief of Timing, Chief of Gate Judges, and other officials with many subordinates.

Some of the Russians I have befriended have told me that the ‘Chiefs’ are very nervous and do not want to screw up.

The Russians, despite lack of experience at World Cup races trust only their folks (the Olympics are like any other World Cup Race, with the added dimension of course being the Olympics). But in the last few days I have noticed they are willing to allow international volunteers more positions where experience is required.

Some of us are now on slip crews (slipping is literally skiing sideways to shave the ruts created by a racer and to make the track as smooth as possible for the next racer). One of our guys, Paul from the Whistler Weasels, has even been accepted in the paid crew’s shovel program to clean gates.

Lake Louise Sled Dogs and Whistler Weasels should understand that the Russian Ski Federation folks, the ‘so-called pros’, are paid to be here. There is definitely a pecking order.

Nevertheless international volunteers including Canadians are showing the ROC that we are very capable of running a ski race, especially an Olympics/World Cup level ski race.

So things are better, but many international volunteers are underutilized. As I said before, this is Russia, their Olympics, their venue, their ski race and we want to be a part of making it the best games. So we will do what the Russians want us to do and smile and be part of the team.

02.11_web_Canada-House-6-with-Todd-BrookerRosa Khutor is fantastic! All the Alpine venues are very close by, unlike in 2010 when the venues were kilometres apart. From the alpine ski racing venue we can see Slopeside venues, and across the valley is the Laura Cross-country & Biathalon Centre, making things very compact and very efficient to move people around.

The Russians have put together a great transportation centre to move the general public and volunteers in a quick and efficient manner. Folks can get around here with minimal walking or waiting time for buses. On our way to our accommodation centre we drive by the luge/ bobsleigh venue and the ski jumping venue. By the way, most of the ski jumping takes place at night.

Unlike in 2010 we do not have a Whistler Weasel House to have a beer with our fellow volunteers. Rosa Khutor has bars but nothing compared to Whistler. Actually, the Russians are downplaying alcohol. Russians, especially males, are known to drink too much. Our accommodation centre is ‘dry’ but yeah, I am sipping vodka as I write this update.

Canadians volunteers are the talk of the town as we have taken over a local wine bar and have branded it ‘Canada House’. We are too far from the real ‘poshy’ Canada House so we’ve made this bar our own and covered it with Canadiana. I’ve talked about our ‘Stampede Breakfast’ – we each brought pancake mix and maple syrup and we’re inviting Canadians from all sport disciplines to join us on the Feb. 15 for a Canadian-style bash – somehow I remembered to bring a Stompin’ Tom CD. It should be fun if we can get it off. We had our first party a few nights ago, Todd Brooker happened to be there and he joined in.

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Last night it was nice to see Canadians go 1-2 in the freestyle moguls and of course Canadians were letting everyone know at ‘our’ bar. After all there is some fun to be had to this volunteer stuff. It’s not all just work!

Today I was happy to run into Darrell MacLachlan, who is the FIS TD for the Olympics. Some of you know Darrell as the Chief of Race for the Lake Louise Winterstart. A ‘TD’, for you folks that do not know ski racing, is a ‘Technical Delegate’.  A TD’s role is to ensure that race rules and protocols are followed and that the race is fair and safe for all athletes and of course, all the course workers.

The Chief of Race speaks primarily German. The Chief of Course speaks only Russian and most of the medical staff speak no English. So there is a delay with translations and to get things understood and done!

I thought with me taking Russian for the past two years would help, and it does to some extent. But my Russian is so basic that I really cannot be helpful. I can get by, but not enough to lead a team.  So now I am on the slipping team made up of many nationalities not just Canadians.

There are many experienced folks on the slipping team that I am on; one was the Chief of Slippers in Schladming during the last FIS championships and we have a lady who was on France’s National Ski team. She can really ski!

That’s all folks! The weather is cooperating. No snow, as the temperatures are too warm during the day. The track does, however, get set up during the night.