Prairie Village’s Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff, began volunteering with the USOC at the Olympics in 1984 and is in Sochi, sharing daily reports with friends and colleagues, including The Star.
By VAHE GREGORIAN
The Kansas City Star
Here’s are excerpts from Hancock’s latest email, from Saturday, Feb. 8:
The Russians seem sincerely happy with the opening ceremony, and they should be. Yes, one of the snowflakes didn’t burst into an Olympic ring. I know folks were disappointed. But we got to see something special. Maybe it wasn’t as intriguing as a wardrobe malfunction, but….
Note from friend in Oklahoma: “NBC news not painting the rosy picture of Sochi you are reporting. Only 19 percent of Americans think it’s safe over there according to NBC. Richard Engle unwrapped a new computer and had a techy person turn it on. Immediately hacked, again according to NBC. Story in Oklahoman about dog killings, as well. Glad the media coverage is not getting to you guys over there.”
Response: In our little world over here, things are darn good. It’s NOT as comfortable as home, but the adventure is incredible and we have everything we need except tamales and key lime pie…
Reporter, before the opening ceremony: “A friend at home thinks I’m at death’s door over here. I told him I’m in the safest place in the world. If anything goes wrong, 19,000 Russian soldiers will pounce.”
Bob Kravitz, the nifty Indianapolis columnist, took an interpreter and watched the opening ceremony in downtown Sochi: “The American view of Russia tends to have a Cold War tint, a view of Russians as cold, taciturn and brooding, the inscrutable human equivalent of Siberia. This is the land that gave us Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and Turgenev, plumbers of the human soul. Americans think of Russia, they think of the old Soviet Union, of Lenin.
“So why are there thousands of people in downtown Sochi partying like it’s 2014, drinking beers and downing shots of Beluga Vodka (which, by the way, is purer than Tim Tebow)? Why are there so many men lovingly holding their sons above their heads, so many smiling mothers warmly embracing their daughters, all of them watching a pair of giant screens showing the Opening Ceremony while standing at the seaport in bustling downtown Sochi? How do you explain the tears as the Russian national anthem plays over the loudspeakers?” ...
A reporter found the Pittsburgh bar in Sochi. The sign out front read “Pittsburgh.” Inside were photos of the steel city. The owner apparently just likes the city. Nobody inside spoke English….
This place gets better every day. Must admit I did see a shell of a partially-completed building that had been wrapped in a cloth “mural” of a building….
Judging by the opening ceremony, Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor might be the theme music. Can’t go wrong with that. Listen on YouTube.
First gold medal of the games went to Sage Kotzenberg of the USA! Is that serendipitous?
Nicki and I went to his news conference. He wore the USA silver jacket and a big smile and a beige stocking cap. “It’s the craziest thing ever,” he said. “Repping the USA is so cool. Being on the team together is SO sick.” He was SO happy, waving to the media three times.
“It feels like I’m in a dream. When I got in the finals I thought, ‘man, I might have to do this crazy run that I was thinking of.’ It feels surreal.”
Eight Russian volunteers—all young women—stood against the wall during the news conference. I half-expected them to squeal like Beatles fans on the Ed Sullivan show 50 years ago.
On his way down the hill, Sage did a backside 1620 Japan grab. A reporter said, “could you take a few minutes to describe that? I don’t what that means. I feel like I’m talking to Peyton Manning about Omaha.”
Sage’s parents, brother and sister didn’t come to Sochi. “The main reason is they stress me out to much. At usual competitions, my mom sits behind a bridge. I was kinda like, ‘would you guys stay at home?’ I’m so much more relaxed and I’m not really thinking of anyone. I called them afterward. My dad was like ‘whoaaaaaaa’. All my friends were watching back home. There were like 50 of them in my house. It could be a dangerous night in Park City.”
He also called his older brother, Blaze, age 22, from the top of the hill about 10 minutes before his run….
A great friend back home is really nervous about our safety over here. That’s very kind. But it’s like watching your favorite college football team. The angst is much greater watching on television than in person.
To reach Vahe Gregorian, call 816-234-4868 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/vgregorian.