Time for a trip to Krasnaya Polyana and a run down Rosa Khutor: Dispatch from a Sochi Volunteer

02.18_web_Olympic-Flame1The day after I was at Canada House in the Coastal Cluster, Vladimir Putin visited and said a few words. A few of my fellow volunteers were there and one managed to shake his hand.

I forgot to mention in my last update that the huge torch at Olympic Plaza is about two-thirds the size of the tower at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. I was told it burns one million cubic feet of gas per day. There is a loud roar that is emitted by it.

I have met many Russians and they have come at their expense from all over Russia. This is the new Russia. It’s a growing middle class and they all appear to have money, are well-dressed and travel all over the world and using the latest ski equipment.

The last good day of weather was Feb. 16. It was also a great day for Canada: Jan Hudec won a bronze medal in the Super G. I have known Jan for many years and this medal could not have happened to a nicer or more hard-working fellow. As a course worker I was on the slip crew for the Super G. It was a thrill for me to be on the slip crew and know that I played a small role in making the track as rut free and as smooth as possible for Jan.

Most of you know that after the results are official at any event in the Olympics, there is what is called the ‘Flower Ceremony’. The athletes are introduced on the podium and young women dressed in the local fashion carry flowers in. This is a very nice ceremony. The actual medal presentations and raising of the nations flags do not occur until later in the evening at the Olympic Plaza. I am attaching a photo taken with these very good-looking young women!

02.18_web_image009As volunteers our accreditation allows us free transportation on trains our buses in and around Sochi, Adler, the coastal cluster and the mountain cluster. Yesterday afternoon I took a bus to ‘old’ Krasnaya Polyana. This is the original village before the Olympic venues were constructed. Many old dachas (cottages) are still standing and being used.

As I walked the streets of Krasnaya Polyana I saw many old people sitting on park benches or out for walks, and I wondered how these folks feel about having all these foreigners in their town.

I wanted to visit an old Russian Orthodox Church that I knew was there from my trip here last year for the Olympic test events. The church was open and with my limited Russian I was able to find out that the church is over 125 years old.  During the communist period here, religion was frowned upon and suppressed. But in speaking with the ‘new’ Russians, they do attend church and many new churches are being erected in Russia. I have a couple of photos taken of the church and inside.

Yesterday afternoon I had time to go to the top of Rosa Khutor Peak, at about 8,000 feet, and ski the backside. Weather had started to deteriorate from the many beautiful sunny days we had. I skied down one run and spotted a camouflaged soldier armed.  I skied up to him, he did not like my visit but I softened him up with a Canada pin and a pin from the City of Fernie.

Rosa Khutor is right on the Georgian border and Russians and Georgians do not like each other. This goes back to Russia supporting the separation of Abkhazia from Georgia. The Russians also invaded parts of Georgia as well. So, there is tension.

This soldier had high-powered binoculars to detect any movement along the Georgian border and a high-powered rifle to match! He had
some serious weapons. I could see he had some kind of shelter and sleeping quarters. He definitely did not want me hanging around. I asked for as photo and got a very stern “nyet”.

02.18_web_Camouflaged-soldiersI came across another guard post and asked him for directions to the bottom (I was now in fog and there were no signs). He was quite helpful and more talkative. He also had a hawkeye, he saw me go by his post earlier in the morning and had spotted my Canadian patch on my pack sac. I softened him up as well and gave him a few pins. Before I left on this trip I spoke with my MP David Wilks and he gave a few hundred Canadian pins, flags and Canadian ‘stuff’. I have used most of it to date! Pin trading here is crazy.

I mentioned earlier the weather has turned bad: rain at the bottom, slop in between and snow on top. Now that the speed events are over and we are now in the technical events, weather is less of an issue, but it still can cause problems.

The Women’s Giant Slalom ran today and we on the Men’s side tried to get the track ready for tomorrow. The track is very soft and we spent several hours slipping the track and even boot-packed one pitch called Bear’s Brow. It is about 80 metres in length and very, very, steep. We had to hike up and down three times – about 100 of us – and then step it out with our skis. After that you definitely don’t need to hit the gym!

02.18_web_IMG_0554The warm weather has also affected ski jumping. The events are held at night (cooler temperatures, less wind) But I was speaking with one course worker at the jumping venue and they are now trucking in snow. Sounds like 2010, doesn’t it?

The weather is supposed to turn this evening. So the Race Chiefs sent us home soaking wet and with instructions to get dry and come back tonight at 11 p.m. We were told we would be slipping the track all night most likely until 5 a.m.! Such is the life of a course worker.

The temperatures are expected to drop to below freezing, which is great. Whistler Weasels would feel right at home here!

One thing the Russians do well, is they have a few folks going around with insulated carrying packs filled with hot chai – pretty good when this kind of weather hits.

This may be my last update, as I am booked to fly out on Feb. 20 for Istanbul. Only the slalom events remain after the Men’s Giant-Slalom. They have hundreds of volunteers and probably will not need me nor miss me!