Winter Olympics

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Biggest #SochiProblem? An Entitled Press Corps

Posted By on Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 4:36 PM

The Russians are calling it "zloradstvo," translated as "malicious glee." In German it would be "schadenfreude" (literally, "harm-joy"). In English, it's @SochiProblems.

Since journalists—specifically western journalists—started arriving in the Black Sea coastal city of Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics, they have been filling their Twitter feeds with snark about all the little things that seem to have gone awry in the run-up to the games.

Now famous are the missing doorknobs, open manholes, honey packets with dead bees included and, of course, the peach juice-colored water.

The @SochiProblems Twitter account now boasts 342,000 followers—about 100,000 more than the official @Sochi2014—and while the picture of disarray in the Olympic host city is a subject for bitter mirth among Americans, Brits and Canadians, it's no laughing matter for Russians.

As pointed out by Russia-based New Republic writer Julia Ioffe—who has covered the country for Foreign Policy, The New Yorker, The Daily Beast and others—#SochiProblems represents far more than the inconvenience of apparently very sheltered reporters with an ax to grind: They're actual problems.

"[I]t does seem like the Western press is on the hunt for evidence of how inept and hilarious the Russians are," Ioffe wrote. "There does seem to be something mean-spirited in all of this, as if the Western press came hoping to encounter pillow shortages and rusty water."

That point was cast in fine relief on, where fellow Russia expert Sarah Kaufman took aim specifically at the issue of dirty water: 

"[J]ournalists only have to deal with it for a few weeks. Locals have to deal with it until Russian Railways or Sochi officials decide to build them a new water supply system. Four years ago, they promised this would be done by now, but it is not."

Yeah, that's much less funny that "in Soviet Russia, water pollution drinks you."

They're already calling this Olympics the "viral games," but Sochi may well go down in history as the "vicious games"—at least where the press corps is concerned.
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Sunday, February 9, 2014

NBC Cuts Anti-Discrimination Statement From IOC Opening Ceremony

Posted By on Sun, Feb 9, 2014 at 11:27 AM

Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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  • Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee

International viewers of the Winter Olympic Games opening ceremony heard a very different speech by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach from their counterparts in the United States, Deadspin reports.

Around the world, winter sports fans heard a plea by Bach for tolerance and a reiteration of the Olympic charter's call for sportsmanship, camaraderie, peace and tolerance. American viewers, getting their broadcast from NBC, heard a different speech from Bach, his veiled allusions to Russia's anti-gay propaganda laws, which directly affect at least six Olympic athletes, removed.

Below is a transcript of Bach's speech from British TV. The portions in italics were absent from the NBC broadcast.

"Good evening, dear Athletes. Mr. president of the Russian Federation, Mr. Secretary General of the United Nations, Good evening Olympic friends and fans around the world! Welcome to the 22nd Olympic Winter Games! Tonight, we are writing a new page in Olympic history.

Continue reading »

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Friday, May 7, 2010

Need Something to Do Friday?

Posted By on Fri, May 7, 2010 at 10:12 AM

Ignore tabloid darling and ice queen Kate Gosselin's feeble attempts to revitalize her career on the dance floor each week and come see some real talent when Boise State's Theatre Arts Department presents Dance Bytes: The Evolution of Jazz Hands, a student production at the Danny Peterson Theatre in the Morrison Center.

The event features a special performance by student Ali Heward entitled Rebirth. She choreographed the piece for her sister, two-time paralympic medalist skier and World Cup Champion, Lacey Heward, who at the age of one became paralyzed from the waist down. In addition to being in a wheelchair her whole life, Lacey now desperately needs a kidney transplant.

Lacey Heward,  2x Paralympic medalist skier and World Cup Champion
  • Lacey Heward, 2x Paralympic medalist skier and World Cup Champion

"I wanted it (the dance) to be kind of about how Lacey has been in the process of coming from the place of feeling inadequate and half of a person..." Heward said.

The piece, featuring Lacey herself, represents the Paralympian's metaphorical journey.

"It's like she's in the womb and she kind of comes out and awakens to this bright, beautiful, loving place where there's all these people who care about her," Heward said. "It's kind of a spiritual piece too. It's her spiritual rebirth."

The showcase also features student dancers as well as Off Center's Katie Ponozzo and members of Idaho Dance Theater. Ponozzos studied ballet, tap and jazz in northern Idaho and performed in the Eugene Ballet Company's production of The Nutcracker, before taking up her current gig as an ballet instructor at Boise State.

Showtimes are today at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Ticket for the event are $7 general admission and $5 for students, military and seniors.

To learn more about Lacey and how you can help, visit Read more on Lacey here: The Arbiter: A Kidney for Lacey

On May 28, The Visual Arts Collective will be hosting a fundraiser event. For details visit A Kidney for Lacey's Events page

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Russia Set to Welcome World in 2014

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 7:53 PM

Russia's Sochi House is the "it" place in Vancouver. Ok. One of them. The line Wednesday snaked around the building. Some 75,000 visitors have already wandered through this blue domed building that's right on Vancouver's waterfront.

Sochi House on Vancouvers waterfront.
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  • Sochi House on Vancouver's waterfront.

Everyone comes to sip Vodka, listen to traditional singers and mingle with Russian athletes who've made Sochi house their home away from home. If they're lucky they'll spot Russia's team mascot Cheburashka - a fictional character that's been around in the country since the mid 1960s.

Cheburashka poses with a visitor to Sochi House.
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  • Cheburashka poses with a visitor to Sochi House.

But mostly people want to find out where Sochi is. It's Russia's southernmost city with some 400,000 people. It's right by the Black Sea. So it's warmer than Vancouver. You can ski year round on mountains that are just thirty minutes away. Experts say snow won't be an issue because the mountains are much higher than Vancouver's coastal range. Vancouver had to truck snow in because much of it had melted ahead of the games.

Visitors also come to Sochi House to find out what Russia's vision is for the next Winter Games in 2014.
The answer lies in a three dimensional model of Sochi and the surrounding area. Press one of the buttons on the model and the Olympic Village lights up. Another button shows you where the curling rink will be or the international airport. Sochi will build everything from the ground up spending around twelve-billion dollars over the next five years.

Some of the venues will be portable. The curling rink, for example, will be taken apart after the 2014 games and sent around the country. That excites Russia's curling team. The group hasn't had an actual curling rink to practice or play on in Russia, ever.

So on Sunday, the 21st Winter Games come to an end. Vancouver will hand over the Olympic flag to Sochi - passing on an Olympic tradition.

Outside Sochi House Russian techno blasts from speakers.
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  • Outside Sochi House Russian techno blasts from speakers.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

The Exclusive Games

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 6:43 PM

Over the weekend a friend and I decided it was time to take a break and check out the different pavilions and venues at the Vancouver Olympics. The Canada's Northern House made the list. So did the Irish House, LiveCity downtown, and the Richmond O-zone. And we, of course, had to pay a visit to USA House.

We mapped out our route and set off on a hike through downtown Vancouver. The only problem was USA House was no where to be found. It didn't seem to exist. We eventually found it in a glass apartment complex right across from Irish House with it's long line of beer drinking faithful and pumping Irish tunes. The "House" has nothing American about it. You won't find U.S. flags hanging about. Instead, you'll find windows carefully covered in a wintery design blocking the world from the sidewalks out and hiding the super secret world inside.

We're greeted cordially by someone trying to assess who we're with. Do we have a meeting with someone? Where are our credentials? We're told that the USA House is off limits to the general person. It's just for athletes, sponsors and members of the Olympic Family. We didn't fit any category except unaccredited media. This is the exclusive side of the Olympics complete with a private U.S.A. Olympic store for "special" people.

We were allowed into get a sneak peak of the Ralph Lauren and Nike line up. We choked over the $138 scarves and $78 t-shirts. The Nike side of the store was much cheaper than the Ralph Lauren side for what it's worth. We didn't buy anything but I did snap a few pictures to give you an idea of what's inside this top secret location.

Inside the USA House store.
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  • Inside the USA House store.

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That sticker shock wore off though when we made it Sochi Russia House where a winter team jacket will run you $598. The best part of the USA House? Watching figure skating star Michelle Kwan waltz through the doors and head right up the elevator to the super top secret section of USA House.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Curler's Delight

Posted By on Sat, Feb 20, 2010 at 5:33 PM

I've never considered curling to be a serious sport. How can sliding a 45 pound stone along a sheet of ice be a sport? What's up with these men and women scrubbing the ice with a broom to make the stone slide in a particular direction? Seriously. Curling, a sport and at the Olympics? No way.

I decided I should check curling out before I poked more fun at it. I bought a ticket on, where else, ebay and Friday afternoon I sat for three hours in the bleachers caught up in curling.

Let's start with the fans. All 5,000 seats at the Vancouver Olympic Center were filled and each section seemed to represent a country. Switzerland was right across from me. I was sandwiched between Canadian curling fans, U.S. faithful and Denmark. Norway was loud and raucous across the curling field. So when Canada beat Denmark 10 to three, the bleachers shook with Canadians stomping their feet and cheering. Curling, it turns out, is a big deal in Canada. In fact, the head of Canada's Olympic Committee told me that Canadians are either born with hockey skates on their feet or curling brooms in their hands.

Curling packs in a global crowd.
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  • Curling packs in a global crowd.

Curling is also about funky fashion. Check out the pants of Norway's curling team. How can you not love a competition where argyle rules?

Norways curling team rocks a new fashion statement.
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  • Norway's curling team rocks a new fashion statement.

Curling is an intelligent game and it takes a lot of upper body strength. I was told by an amateur curling player that curlers burn 1,800 calories per game.

Canadas curling team scrubs the ice in route to winning the match.
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  • Canada's curling team scrubs the ice in route to winning the match.

So I've revised my opinion about curling. I'd like to try this game which seems to be the one Olympic event that anyone could do. But I better try curling here in Canada where it's popular like American football. Highlights from Friday's match up? Canada solidly beat Denmark. The U.S. men won by a point over the French and Norway, with their catchy pants, won over China.

The Olympic curling rink in Vancouver.
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  • The Olympic curling rink in Vancouver.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sights and Sounds

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 11:11 PM

Every place I visit usually has a defining sound. Here in Vancouver, B.C. seaplanes and the Gastown Steam Clock are top contenders. I discovered both while working on a piece for NPR's Only a Game last week. In Whistler, the gondolas and the shredding of snowboarders definitely characterize this ski town. Every place has a unique sound. Sometimes you have to close your eyes and listen. You'll find it. In the meantime, you can hear the sounds of Vancouver and Whistler just days before the Winter Olympics by clicking here.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Day at the Track

Posted By on Tue, Feb 16, 2010 at 8:42 PM

I know. I keep sharing non related Idaho moments at this year's Olympics. That's mainly because the events I have tickets for, don't have any Idaho athletes. Still it's the Olympics and gosh darn it (yes I just said gosh darn it), speed skating is plain cool or what Canadian snowboarders here say "sick." So below you'll find photos and captions from Tuesday's 500 meter women's speed skating race. South Korea's Lee Sang-hwa won gold at the Richmond Olympic Oval. She becomes the first Asian woman to win an Olympic speed skating event. Sang-hwa burst into tears after she realized she won. There were plenty of fans from Korea in the stands to cheer her on.

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This is a shot of one of Canada's speed skaters half way through the 500 meter event. The crowd stomped their feet so hard the bleachers shook.

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Korea ruled the day winning its first gold medal in women's speed skating.

Lee Sang-hwa carries the Korean flag around the rink at the Richmond Olympic Oval after winning gold.
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  • Lee Sang-hwa carries the Korean flag around the rink at the Richmond Olympic Oval after winning gold.

Every time a Canadian speed skater took the ice the packed stadium went wild.
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  • Every time a Canadian speed skater took the ice the packed stadium went wild.

We have bands at football and basketball games but youll also find great band action at speed skating. Check out the Dutch band Kleintje Pils, or Small Beer. They entertained the crowd in between races.
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  • We have bands at football and basketball games but you'll also find great band action at speed skating. Check out the Dutch band Kleintje Pils, or Small Beer. They entertained the crowd in between races.

And they wore what else? Clogs!
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  • And they wore what else? Clogs!

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Feel the speed

Posted By on Tue, Feb 16, 2010 at 12:10 PM

I grew up watching the Winter Olympics on TV. My sister and I would try to mimic a double salchow in the living room — not a pretty sight. We settled for learning to go backwards on the ice rink. I never imagined that one day I’d be at the Olympics.

Yet, here I am at my first Olympics blogging for Boise Weekly and producing radio features for Only a Game. The reality of this sunk in Monday. I was up in Whistler interviewing members of the U.S. Biathlon Team. Afterward, I caught a bus to the Whistler Sliding Center to watch the women’s luge.

These women lie on their backs on a sleigh propelling themselves down a twisty ice track at speeds topping around 132 miles per hour. They’re a blur of color across the ice and it’s over in 42 seconds or less. Thousands of fans drank beer, cheered and tried to snap a photograph or two of one of these women. This photo endeavor turned into a competition. A group of us right down by the track figured out that 30 seconds into the run if we held our shutters down we might get a picture. I got lucky twice.

The crowds cheered for Canada, then the U.S. and then Australia, which you can hear here

The competition started at 5 p.m. with a 45-minute break in between each race.

Whistler Sliding Center
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  • Whistler Sliding Center

I had bleacher seats but found it was ok to wander around and get so close to the track I could almost touch it.

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Whistler Sliding Park is set up so everyone has a good spot to watch but if you want to follow a luger through the whole race, you'll need the big screen.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Life in the Lines

Posted By on Mon, Feb 15, 2010 at 12:17 AM

I’ve been here in Vancouver for a week staying in White Rock about an hour south of the city. And I’m using public transportation to get around. Long time Vancouverites warned me not to rent a car. Having a car, they said, would be more trouble than it’s worth. Roads are constantly being blocked off to accommodate Olympic festivities and parking can be hard to find. I followed their advice and opted to take the new light rail line and bus.

It’s been enjoyable not driving. The lines haven’t been bad. And I’ve had some interesting conversations. I’ve hardly had to wait more than ten minutes for a bus and even less for the train. That is until today.

I work out of the unaccredited media center in Robson Square. It’s fine accommodations except for one major challenge. Robson Square has become a major party scene with its new ice rink, extravagant nightly light show and a zip line running across the plaza. It’s a true circus and it’s tough dodging around baby strollers, gawkers and the like.

The crowds extend two blocks away to the Canada Line where I get on the train at city center. The escalator and stairs were blocked tonight and I was detoured around the station. It took more than half hour before I boarded a train for Bridgeport Station to catch a bus. One woman kept saying over and over again “This is just crazy. Crazy!” No one’s really used to this. But a spontaneous person yelling “Go Canada Go” creates a ripple effect through the crowd and soon everyone in the line is cheering.

The irony is that driving actually wouldn’t be that bad. The roads are clear. Everyone is on the train or on a bus. Don’t mistake me. I’m not whining. I’m actually impressed. Local residents and tourists have embraced mass transit for the world’s largest sporting event.

Sure it requires patience and now extra planning for the lines. But the system seems to work. I’m also learning new skills like how to keep my balance standing up in a bus for an hour. It’s sort of like riding a skateboard, or doing squats on a wobble board at the gym.

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