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Columnist Vahe Gregorian offers musings about the sports scene in and around Kansas City

From Prairie Village to Sochi: Bill Hancock’s report on the Opening Ceremony

02/07/2014 5:28 PM

02/07/2014 5:28 PM

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 those back home, including The Star’s Vahe Gregorian.

Here’s Hancock’s latest email, with a report on the Opening Ceremony:

Friday, February 7 (sending early today to report on opening ceremony)

On cue for opening ceremony day, cloudless sky and spectacular orange sunrise. The snowy mountains were out in high-pixel relief. Oh, wow!

Russian radio played on the bus today. Sounds like American radio. Even the static is the same.

There’s an extra energy on the streets today, a little extra jaunt in the steps. The Brits are excited. Me, too.

The Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And this cat has had 11 lives so far. I’m one lucky feline.

Opening Ceremony day is thrilling. I don’t know how many thousand athletes or more have worked all their lives for this. And today is their day.

Fisht Stadium is indoor/outdoor. It has a roof, but is not fully enclosed. There’s no heating system. I guess the temperature inside is 45 or 50. It’s fine. But I’m glad we wore our parkas and gloves. The back of the concourse is outdoors. The sunset over the Black Sea was magnificent.

We got a nice pregame show. Many folks chose to miss it. We arrived early; actually only about 100 people were in the stands when we got there. So we got to pick a nice seat.

Pretty soon the announcer said the worldwide network would be joining in nine minutes. The place got as quiet as church on Thursday. They we welcomed the world and I got all emotional. Then they made it snow inside the stadium. It was real snow. It melted when it hit us, but it was real snow. Then President Putin arrived. He’s sitting up to our left.

I do love the Russian national anthem. It may be my fifth-favorite, behind “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Oklahoma!,” “God Save the Queen,” and “O Canada.”

I do love the traditions of the Olympics. The greatest is the parade of athletes. Some reporters used the time to grab a beer (non-alcoholic only, I’m told) but we sat tight. I remember watching the parade as a child, with my parents, waiting like Christmas for the USA to arrive. Okay, so I lost it tonight when the stars and stripes popped into the view. I always do. Go ahead, make fun of me all you want to.

Our athletes got a nice cheer.

They announced the nations in three languages: English, French and Russian. Good. The home team’s entrance was one of the best ever; the lights, the music … perfect. And good.

At the winter games, the athletes have the best seats in the house. Duh. The athletes could walk here from the village. (From the coastal village, that is; the ones from alpine village took the bus.)

The media area has a nifty flat-screen TV monitor for every four seats. We each got a game program and a little chest medal flashlight deal. There were two dress rehearsals. Fans could attend. Photographers got a chance to scout their positions.

More snow. Real snow. Lights. Colors. Bass music that rattles teeth. Action. Pyro. Thank goodness for game program. Many similarities to London’s.

Couldn’t actually see the fireworks from inside, but sure could hear ’em. This will go down as one of the great opening ceremonies.

Great walk back to MPC. Ran into Dallas TV reporter enroute back. Also saw a 7-foot Russian. Also ran into Vai Sikahema, who wanted to talk about the BCS. Olympic flame, Tchaikovsky and Vai Sikahema? What’s next, the Easter Bunny dancing the tango with George Bailey? Was this a dream?

Even though you know who wins (humankind does) I hope you will watch the ceremony back home.

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