Warning: this is another on-the-run post, as in half an hour Nat and I will be interviewing IBU Presdient Anders Besseberg about a variety of issues. Exciting! So at some point I’ll dash off. Hopefully I won’t leave you hanging on too awkward an ending.
Today I went inside the athlete village. Or, one of them, to be more specific. There are a few. I visited the “Endurance Village”, which is perched up on the mountain by our venues and houses the cross country skiers and biathletes only. There’s also a mountain village which houses other skiers and sliders, and something down in the coastal cluster.
First, some background: there was a lot more exciting racing yesterday. Dario Cologna came back from a serious injury – he missed almost the whole season up until now and only started his first World Cup last weekend – to win the men’s 30 k skiathlon. The Canadians had legendarily bad wax. Then, in the women’s biathlon sprint, my friend Susan placed 14th, the best finish ever for a U.S. woman in a sprint at the Olympics! Susan has a habit of doing these things and it was very exciting to watch. The winner was also a surprise, Anastasiya Kuzmina of Slovakia, who won the last Olympic sprint but hasn’t done a whole heck of a lot since then.
Anyway: it was a long day. We got back to the hotel around midnight, and Nat went to bed. Alex and I, though, grabbed a very overpriced beer at the hotel bar and sat and chatted and decompressed, about work and life and a million other things. I’ve never gotten to know Alex in person, and we have been having a blast together! We’ve only let Nat into our girls’-room-lair once so far, but if he’s nice we’ll keep allowing it.
Then, I went back to work and published another piece before crashing into bed at 2:30.
I was supposed to meet Susan at the entrance to the village at 10, so I got up around 7:30, took a shower, and transcribed the rest of my interviews from yesterday. Then I sat at breakfast (our hotel buffet breakfast is pretty extraordinary) and typed up yet another piece. Yuck!! Getting a little burnt out already, danger ahead Chelsea! At 9 I managed to leave the hotel, take the gondola down to the village, and catch a bus to the Krasnaya Polyana train station. There, I picked up the guest pass.
“And how do I get to the endurance village?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s easy!” said the lady behind the desk. “Walk out that door, across the plaza, over the bridge, and turn right on the path. Walk along the river and after about 15 minutes you’ll find the cable car.”
Well. This is Sochi, so of course it wasn’t that easy. I did what she said (I’m an obedient journalist), all the time wondering when I would see this cable car… and I never did. I ended up in Rosa Khutor, a completely different place, and started asking people how to get to the endurance village, and most of them didn’t speak English.
By this point I was definitely late to meet Susan, and I was despairing about the fact that I had to walk all the way back (although I had no idea where to go from there). Then, I saw a couple guys walking out of a hotel. One was carrying One Way poles and the other had a Swix backpack. I ran over.
“Excuse me!” I said. “Do you know how to get to the endurance village?”
Yes, they did, and even more miraculously they had a car. The guys, who turned out to be French and working with the nordic combined team, drove me to the bottom of the cable car – the same one I take up to the venue for work every day, if only I had known!! – and eventually I made it to the athlete village.
Sadly, I didn’t take pictures. I was too tired and lazy. Instead I treated it like a little relaxation break. Susan gave me the tour – the main building is amazing, with a beautiful cafeteria, a pool and spa, a gym, a “disco”, a cinema, a gaming arcade, everything you could imagine. Beautiful architecture too, actually, in a blocky log mountain lodge sort of way. We toured through the apartments, where their wax and coaching staff were staying, and finally to a chalet, where Susan and the rest of the team were living.
The chalet was beautiful and spacious. Susan had a room all to herself and so we just sat and chatted (and Hannah and Sara joined us for a bit too). To be able to just sit and relax with a friend felt better than good. Also, she had free bottled water as part of the Coca Cola sponsorship of the Games (you just walk outside and go to a vending machine, where you can get unlimited water, coca cola, and powerade), so I drank like four bottles. Water is not free in the media center, and you can’t drink the tap water anywhere, so this was a very exciting development.
We also went for a run, so I got the complete tour of the perimeter of the village. It’s pretty extensive. Each team had flags and banners hung outside their rooms, showing off their pride. I passed Aino Kaisa Saarinen, which you can’t say every day.
My favorite part was going around a small pond, which probably looks disgusting and is filled with wastewater in the summer, but when it’s frozen is quite picturesque. There was a path around the banks, and also a long, long row of flagpoles with flags from each of the countries participating in the Olympics. Paired with the bright blue sky and the epic-looking mountains in the background, it’s fair to say that I was feeling pretty Olympic. It was nice. I never thought that atmosphere alone could give you such a feeling.
I also saw some of the funny parts of the Olympic village: national committees have to pay for the housing, and, for instance, the apartments are cheaper than the chalets. There’s also not much furniture included, but they can purchase furniture for their rooms. I think that the biathlon team had bought a sofa, table, and television to make things more homey. Otherwise, I guess, the living room would have been empty. What!?
The fridge was filled with coca cola products, and the cupboards with food mostly from the U.S. Olympic Committee. The USOC has many corporate sponsors and so there were boxes and boxes of American products from home, more than the team will go through during the Games for sure. Susan seemed excited to have peanut butter. Apparently the extra food will be donated to a food bank here in Sochi.
This probably wasn’t all that interesting – wish I had some more dirt for you – but I have to run now! ‘Til tomorrow, bye.