I’m finding stray dog friends all the time now. This happy guy was ready to join us inside the Main Press Center.
Some days at the Olympics are as wild as a snowboard-cross race. We had one of those days in Sochi on Saturday. The U.S. and Russia played one of the best hockey games in Olympic history. At the same time we had writers chasing the story of a 23-year-old Russian women’s ski-cross skier who had reportedly suffered a horrific spinal injury—a dislocated vertebra, almost certain to cause paralysis—in a training crash on a course that might have been too dangerous. Then one of our staff members, writing on deadline, received a message that his wife was in the hospital after suffering a possible stroke. Throughout this we were negotiating with athletes and agents and the IOC for a potentially amazing photo shoot. And so on.
Higher, faster, stronger? Well, higher, anyway. Olympic Park has become a festival of music, dance and Russian ethnic cultures, with a few circus performers and some baked-potato stands thrown in.
Every day at the Olympics is at least a little like that. The Games pack into two weeks more life-changing, career-altering, mind-bending stories and moments—tragedies and triumphs—than any person would normally see in a lifetime. If you’re here as a journalist, it all comes at you fast.
I’m happy to report that the Russian skier is not paralyzed and our staff member’s wife seems to be all right. We’ll see what surprises today holds in store. We’re entering a particularly hectic stretch in the magazine week (though thatt’s sometimes hard to distinguish when you’re already working 16 hours every day). Now on to some pictures, most of them from a lunchtime walk through Olympic Park the other day:
The Ded Moroz Residence in Olympic Park celebrates the Slavic version of Santa Claus, a jolly, white-beared, red-suited figure who gives out presents on New Year’s. Ded Moroz literally means Old Man Frost. People lined up to go inside, but I’m not sure what’s in there.
I walked in on a wonderful performance by a group of Circassian dancers called The Legend of the Caucasus. Extremely long sleeves seemed crucial to the choreography. The Circassians are a Muslim ethnic group who used to live in the Sochi area before the Russians conquered and exiled them, so having a Circassian House tent in Olympic Park was itself political theater. Olympic Park is built literally on top of a mass grave of Circassians killed by the Russians in a battle in the mid-1800s
These native peoples from the Arctic were playing mouth harps near a display of their teepees and animal furs. Please brace yourself for the next photo if you’re not a fan of fur.
What can I say.
This is Russian Flag Man.
This may be the coolest attraction in Olympic Park. Fans have their faces 3-D scanned, then watch the faces appear in actual 3-D on a big screen.
Here’s the, um, head-on view.
Everywhere you walk, there’s a different group of dancers from a different Russian culture. The quiltwork motif in many of the Sochi Olympic graphics represents the country’s vast number of ethnic groups.
One of the baked-potato stands.
Meanwhile, back at the Main Press Center (which I keep typing into my computer as the Maine Press Center)…
Necessity is the mother of Olympic invention. When some of our photographers failed to bring light modifiers to soften the illumination from their strobes, our crew fashioned homemade ones using duct tape, plastic grocery bags and empty bottles from the office water coolers.
We’ve used remote-controlled cameras at sports events for years, but here we’ve moved to a new level—we can aim and fire cameras at distant venues from our office in the Main Press Center. Some of the photos at a future Olympics could be shot by a staff member back in New York using this type of hookup. On the laptop above you can see one camera view of the speedskating venue. Mind you, we still have actual human photographers at events shooting most of our photos with their hand-held cameras.
One of my colleagues quoted Churchill’s famous line about Russia when he saw me eating this unfamiliar cookie in the office: ”It’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” The flavor of jam inside was indeed a riddle.
One last shot from Olympic Park. I love the translation.