Gregorian Chants

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

Bill Hancock’s Olympic letters home: Grandfather Frost, don’t forget your passport and cheering on curling

02/15/2014 11:12 AM

02/15/2014 11:14 AM

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, Friday Feb. 14:

• Walked through about four blocks of fairly new houses here. All had red roofs. … A little dog yapped at us in Russian. A man sat on his front porch. It was an upscale neighborhood, but roosters crowed from backyards. They were upscale roosters, no doubt. Forsythia bloomed yellow, just like back home.

We heard footsteps behind us. Then I saw shadows. It was two other Olympic folks also walking to work. We passed the partially constructed building that had been wrapped on cloth painted to look like a building. And some pigeons cooing at us in Russian.

More than half the walkabout was inside Olympic Park. It was fun to see the Olympics wake up …

• We’re advised to carry our passports at all times. Previously, I locked mine in the hotel safe when I arrived and carried a photocopy. At the Olympics, when you leave your hotel room, it’s wise to make sure you have the three C’s: cell phone, credential and keys. Appropriately it’s CCCP here, adding the passport.

• Cheerleaders at hockey. One kind with short skirts. One kind with very, very short shirts.

• Grandfather Frost — sorta the Russian version of Santa Claus — was in Olympic Park today. Dressed all in red with a beard down to his knees, he led children in a little parade around a Christmas tree. The kids loved it. Volunteer Artyom told me his name is something like “Ded Moroz.” That’s Grandfather Frost in English, I think. (It could also be translated as Old Man Frost, or Father Frost.) Anyhow, Grandfather sang/chanted some songs and people joined. Artyom said people retain Christmas trees about one month. What was Grandfather Frost doing here on February 14? Artyom didn’t know. …

Grandfather Frost’s uniform is more spectacular than Santa Claus’. A woman in a beautiful Carolina blue dress was with him. I thought she might be his agent, but a Russian said she was the snow maiden instead. It’s all quite charming.

Artyom said New Year’s is bigger than Christmas. A woman nearby shook her head “nyet.” Grandfather Frost delivers his presents in person New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. (This year, he will bring a College Football Playoff to all good little boys and girls.)

• USA-Russia curling game tonight. Bagpipers played in the opening ceremony, like always. There were two bagpipers tonight, plus two drummers. They led the teams out of the dressing rooms before the games. No, they did not stick a flaming spear into the ice.

The Russian fans went crazy. They’re not great on etiquette and made noise at the wrong times, sort of like Phil Mickelson fans cheering a shank by Tiger Woods. But the fans were SO cute. They screamed and clapped and chanted.

It’s like a high school wrestling tournament. Four games happen at once. So if China vs. Netherlands gets boring, you can watch Great Britain vs. Switzerland on mat four. Or Germany vs. Denmark. The place will be pandemonium one minute, then silent the next. The Brits sang. Some fan beat on a drum. Another yelled his lungs out. We wore our coats.

• Russia Fact that surely must be true because somebody told me: As of 2010, greater Sochi had a population of 346,000 people. That’s about like Wichita. With a lot less wheat. But many more snowy mountains.

• One American columnist, a Missouri graduate, went for a swim in the Black Sea yesterday. Great column idea! …

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