Reporter/Regional correspondent Kevin M. Coyne headed to the Olympics last week to watch his sister, Kendall, play a little hockey for the United States. The Palos Heights resident offers up some of his experiences in Sochi.
SOCHI, Russia—I am at the world’s largest party.
Last week I arrived and in the first four hours of being in Russia I had a very attractive, elderly Russian rub the Team USA crest on my replica hockey jersey and said to me: “American.”
She proceeded to speak Russian, gave me a hug and a kiss and asked for my American flag pin on my spectator pass—at least I’m assuming that’s what she wanted. After speaking more Russian she took a photo of a real life American.
That first experience really set the stage for what to expect from the Russians. Prior to the trip, I was told by numerous people to avoid wearing Team USA gear around Russia and if anyone asks where I’m from to say “Canada.”
I’ve decided to disregard that advice and I’ve had not one issue with anti-American comments or being harassed. In fact, I’ve noticed the exact opposite. There are thousands of volunteers walking around Russia who are literally here to help spectators get to events.
One Team USA trainer told me about one Russian who served her breakfast and simply said “I love you, I am here to help. Do you want more pancakes?” She decided that she’s going to get pancakes every morning because this young Russian makes her morning complete.
So far I’ve met five time gold medalist U.S. speed skater Bonnie Blair, who was a guest of Stagg High School a few weeks ago. I was able to get a quick photo with the beautiful, charming and talented Russian ice dancer Elena Llinykh, who won her first gold medal in Sochi.
Prior to the USA and Canada women’s hockey game, I spotted Detroit Red Wings head coach, Mike Babcock. As a Chicagoan and American I had to swallow my pride and get a photo with one of the winningest coaches in the NHL.
When I’m not meeting NHL coaches and gold medalists and taking photos with attractive Russian ladies, I’m taking photos of the beautiful scenery. It’s about 60 degrees here in Russia. It’s odd to see people sunbathing at the WINTER games.
SUBHEAD – Debunking some myths
Despite what you may hear about safety issues, Sochi is likely the safest place to be in the world. The thousands of very nice volunteers I mentioned early, yeah I was told they are all packing heat. You don’t see the stereotypical armed guards walking around with M4 weapons. In fact, I’ve yet to see a firearm in Russia.
The Russian police likely have a concealed firearm; however, the only weapon on their utility belt is an old school baton. The security is top-notch. Whenever a spectator bus leaves the station it’s inspected for bombs and when the bus is parked the driver wraps tape around the bus to prevent any tampering of the bus.
The next myth -- Russians are shooting stray dogs.
I will say, strays are all over the place—but most of them are sleeping. I was told the dogs are being tranquilized. Clearly, the Russians do not want thousands of dead dogs around the Olympic park.
The next topic people usually like to hear about is the food. Well, I can say that I’ve had hard-boiled eggs and French fries every morning for breakfast. I could however have hot dogs, cold cuts or what they call “chocolates balls,” aka Cocoa Puffs.
Other than the breakfast selection being strange to say the least, the food is delicious. The Russians have some really unique and tasty dishes.