Gregorian Chants

Bill Hancock’s Olympic letters home: A day in the mountains

Updated: 2014-02-17T17:28:01Z

By VAHE GREGORIAN

The Kansas City Star

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 now, sharing daily reports with friends and colleagues, including The Star. Here are excerpts from his latest update, Sunday, Feb. 16:

• A full stadium of people showed up to watch the Super G. The stands form a “C” around the bottom of the hill; I’d guess they seat 6,000 or so. The PA announcer was clever. The music was rock. We walked to the “mixed zone” in front of the bleachers and waited with reporters for athletes to finish. Fans — and reporters — can only see the last steep hill, and watch the rest of the race like you do at home — on television. We saw Bode Miller in the Super G and were delighted to learn later than he had won a medal. … The skiing venue is perfect. …

• I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of television video of the mountains. In person, they are stunning, craggy, almost unbelievably beautiful. …

• I sat on a gondola peering down into the valley and saw plainly why the IOC awarded these Olympics to Sochi. The cross-country skiing venue was a winter wonderland, snow on snow on snow like the Alps or Rockies or your favorite Christmas card with the Clydesdales.

• In contrast with our beloved Rockies, 99.9 percent of the trees here are deciduous. Which means the hillsides are brown, rather than green. (Guess if the pine beetle doesn’t stop, our mountains will be brown some day, too.)

• The Russians have built a little Vail, with big hotels (including a Marriott) and quaint other places. There’s shopping and strolling and bars and a creek and good-looking ski hills. (I’m pretending I know a good-looking hill from a bad-looking one.) Anyway, the village is cute. It’s a shame that some of the hotels were not finished when reporters arrived a couple of weeks ago. I’ve talked to dozens of people who are delighted to be staying up there, and rightly so.

• The town is in the valley, and the venues are up in the surrounding hills. Some great golf course architect did a great job of laying out this place. …

• We watched the cross-country skiers warm up. It was poetic. The sounds of their skies pierced the snowy silence like a pencil tapping on a church pew. …

• Russia Fact that surely must be true because somebody told me: A kremlin originally was the fortified center of a town. Many communities had kremlins …

To reach Vahe Gregorian, call 816-234-4868 or send email to vgregorian@kcstar.com. Follow on twitter.com/vgregorian.

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