The Final Day… An Epic One

The expectations for my last day in Sochi were high. How it actually evolved was bigger, better, and more exciting than anything I could have predicted. It has a visit to Sochi City, having my #USAvsRUS hockey ticket taken away, me losing my surveys (I blame it on the Prof. Neirotti… more on that later), managing to get into a venue when I didn’t have a ticket to begin with (again), an after party, entering the USA House without appropriate accreditation (again), the Holland House (again), and a rough awakening and departure back to Washington DC. Here I go.



February 15th had been on everyone’s calendar for one reason and one reason only: #USAvsRUS Men’s Hockey. 4pm Russia time. I believe it was just me and another student the one’s that weren’t really involved in this whole hockey thing, but as the days kept carrying on I became much more aware of the magnitude of the event. My biggest mistake was not getting a ticket to the match months ago, as everyone else did. Fortunately for me, 3-4 days before the game Prof. Neirotti told me that there was one extra ticket and that it could be mine if I wanted to pay for it. Hell yeah, I now had a ticket for the most anticipated event of the Olympics.



The morning of February 15th we went up to Sochi City and met with GE, it was a great lecture. It helped me a lot with the paper that I need to right for this class. The expectations for the hockey game were so high, that even the lecturers were kind of in a hurry to make sure that they would get to the Olympic Park on time and not miss a second of action. So everything went well but speedy in that lecture, we were soon walking out of the hotel and ready to go back to the Olympic Park. 



I will not what happened next: Prof. Neirotti was waiting for me as I walked out the hotel, she said “Hey Michel, the ticket that I gave you actually belongs to Ryan, I’m sorry”. And I told her, “Oh, ok, don’t worry”, but in the inside I was like NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Ryan’s my good friend now, but I wanted to punch him! As we were walking towards a bus, I was in complete disappointment, really sad. But the run of bad luck hadn’t finish there. As I was putting my things on the tray at the security checkpoint to get into the train that would take us to the Olympic Park, I noticed that I didn’t have my folder with me. That folder contained at least 10 filles surveys and a bunch of other unfilled. Filling the surveys is a requirement to pass the class. After a lot of thinking, I am 90% sure that I left it on the bus. I was so unfocused and disappointed about the hockey tickets that I must have left it there. 



I finally regained my composure during the train ride and knew that if someone could get into the most important game of the Olympics with just 2 hours til it’s start it was me. Right after we arrived, everyone went to the USA House, I decided to go straight to the Volshoi Stadium where the game would be. I started looking for people that could be selling tickets. It was hard! A lot of people looking for tickets and very few selling. After I first spotted one, I was quickly outbid for the ticket. On my second try, and thanks to a Finish guy from their Olympic Committee, I got a $300 USD ticket for $100 USD. I jumped in excitement!



This pic is of me at the packed Volshoi arena letting everyone know that I got in! (Photo credit to Shireen)




You know the outcome of the game… I was so excited that I forgot I was supposed to tweet in English and not in Spanish.

And then, after a controversial call, the game went to shootouts.


I will not forget this day


Let me share with you this video that I took of the last shootout and the US win:



After that things got crazy, we went to drink to a very nice restaurant inside the Olympic Park, I didn’t know that it existed, I am glad I got to know it. After that my Sochi friends and I headed to the Holland House for another great orange experience. It was so good that it made my flight back to the US the next day very difficult, and the Russians weren’t helping!



Awesome trip! Thanks to everyone that made it happen! #michinsochi

The Hospitalities

Every day Sochi gets more packed, and I like it. It is a warmer feeling. 

Today was all about the hospitalities: P&G, Visa, and Coca Cola. What TOP Sponsor spend in the Olympics is incredible. Also, what they do for athletes or their special guests is unbelievable. That is why they are top corporations! In the P&G house you can get a haircut, the ladies can get their “manipedis”, they go the whole nine yards. Coca Cola has a huge inflatable hospitality place where I got to show my talents handling a soccer ball. Someone’s got a picture of me doing that, I’ll post it as soon as I get it. 
After that I got to volunteer again at the USA House. It was a good day for the mountain events so there were plenty of medalists to be cheered. 
Obviously there are a lot of US tourists, but non of them can get into the USA House unless they are special guests of the USOC or are athletes (or friends and family). One of our roles as volunteers is to be bouncers. I kind of enjoyed that role. Our shift ran from 5 to 12. It was a quiet night overall. Got to sleep in early.
Until next time.

Extraordinary and Weird Russia

Everyone we have talked to has told us that this Russia games have been very different from others. Basically said that everything is a bit more complicated and making things happen is more challenging. I think that that has to do more with the fact that everything in Sochi is new, and that despite the efforts of everyone to have things ready on time, they just could not do it. For example, on Wednesday the 12th, we talked to Nancy from the USOC, she is in charge of the logistics for the athletes. One thing that struck me was that not all the equipment for the athletes had arrived and they were scrambling to get them to Sochi.

They said very interesting things. They were staying in a hotel that they practically remodel and customized for their stance. All the remodeling was part of the contract that they had with the hotel owner. It is interesting how locals benefit in many ways from the Olympics, I had not thought about it before. 
After that we went back to the area where our hotel was. We had lunch! Yes there was time for lunch and not only our daily dose of granola bars. In the restaurant we had a couple of lectures from:
– Director of Spectator Experience – He was an energetic guy, the kind of person you need to run this area. 
– Atoos (TOP Sponsor) – Martha, a Spanish lady that worked with Atoos, the company in charge of all the technology systems for the Olympics. I was wowed by the amount of things that they do inside and outside the venues. 
Then we went back to the Olympic Park where the producer for the Opening Ceremony spoke to us. Unfortunately he couldn’t get us passes to go inside their workplace, so we had to stand in the sun and heat of Sochi. Trust me it was hot!

He cautiously mentioned the incident about the 5th ring not showing up… “Shit happens”. Nice guy.
Then I went to a couple of events, Curling (boring, unless you are rooting for a country), and the Switzerland vs Latvia hockey game. What was more striking about that you may ask? They have mirrors in the ceiling of the bathrooms inside the venues!!! Yes, I took a picture.

That was my highlight of the day, how could it not…
Until next time..

A Day up at the Mountain #michinsochi

Internet at our hotel is no fun. High speed Internet is not heard of here at the Amelia House. As everyone went ahead and made their way up to the Mountain Cluster I had to stay behind because I had to submit a homework. Yes, despite this trip I need to remind myself that I’m in a full-time MBA program. The Internet did not help me speed things up. Fortunately I was able to pray hard enough and get the Internet to upload my 100kb file up to Blackboard.

I made my way to the mountain. And it was a long ride. My trip included a walk to the main street, then I decided to take a public bus (not one of the free ones, I paid the equivalent of $1 USD) to the Adler Station, from there I took the train up to the mountains. Coincidentally, the high speed train that takes you to the mountains has the same speed as our Internet back at the hotel. The good thing is that even though it really goes slow in some parts of the ride, it only takes about 50 minutes to get there. Unfortunately for me, I needed to take an extra bus to get to where every one was. It took me about 1:30 hours to finally catch up with the rest of the group.

Once in the mountain I the group was meeting with a US Government Special Agent (security). He basically answered every question we had for him with “I cannot comment on that”, cool guy though. We also met with Rick Adams, the Director of Mountain Operations for the USOC, when he’s not in Russia he’s the Chief of Sport Administration. He told us a lot of things, but the most interesting I remember about his lecture was that they have a “quarantine room” for any athlete that gets sick. They really protect their athletes and are not willing to risk any kind of virus to spread around.

By far the coolest thing that day was going to the Olympic Village. The contact for Prof. Neirotti told us how lucky we were because not only were we going to the Mountain Village, but we would get to go to the parts where only athletes and their families get to go!

A pick of me at the mountain:



After doing a little tourism of the Village we ate a wonderful pizza. Eating is something that we don’t do here. While eating we got a little speech from a Christian group from the US. Yeah, they are everywhere, even Sochi. They gave us a pin, I gave mine to Dr. Neirotti in exchange for an A in the class (right?).

To end our day we went to the final of the Half Pipe event, a lot of people were crashing! The weather is not ideal for the Winter Olympic Games. I am not from the US, but a lot of my friends were highly disappointed to see Shaun White fail to get to the podium. I was not pleased either.




Overall and despite not getting to see the favorite win nor getting beer into my system, it was a phenomenal day!


Sochi City, USA House, & The Holland House #michinsochi

On Monday the 10th, we went as a group to Sochi City, it’s about 40 minutes by train from the Adler Station which is closer to the Olympic Park. It was hot. 



We went to a hotel where we met with a Nike representative, also with Nawal el Moutawakel, a Moroccan Gold Medalist and now current member of the IOC, and a Canadian legal representative of the IOC. All of them shared incredible stories that really made me think about the possibility of getting involved in one way or another in the Olympic movement.  It’s incredible enormous! It’s really unbelievable how many people work behind the scenes. Just the other day that we went to the IBS, there were hundreds of technicians, journalists, logistics operators, etc. It is amazing.



After our lectures up in Sochi City were done, we hurried down to the Olympic Park where I had scheduled my first of two volunteering shifts at the USA House. What I did not know is that that night was a special event night and that the house was closed even to the regular special guests and athletes. The USOC was hosting IOC Members! So we rearranged the house and the furniture the way they asked us to and our next order was to stand outside and wave US flags creating some sort of corridor so that IOC members were able to follow the flags into the House. It was not the most interesting of the activities until I saw all the big shots walking 3 feet from me.







After a couple of hours standing outside in the rain waving COI members into the house, I got the green light to finish early my volunteering, the reason for that: Ruud had gotten me a couple of tickets to the Holland House. 



I think that party-wise the Heineken Holland House is by far the best place to go. Ruud got me 2 tickets so I took Ryan with me. It happened to be a night where the Netherlands had won 1-2-3 in 1000m for speed skating. The place was madness. They brought in a local dutch pop-star to sing and everyone was singing and dancing along. Ryan and me even became close friends with Miss Montreal, funny story how she got that name, but I can’t tell it in this space.


 


I named that Youtube video wrong, but that’s where they were presenting their medalists! It was an awesome experience! All I can say is, I hope I get the chance to go again.







Long and Rewarding Day #michinsochi

Let me start by saying stating that I am a light sleeper and that snoring will wake me up and prevent me from getting a good night rest. To my bad luck, my 2 roommates are big time snorers. Here is proof to that:


I don’t know how, but about 20 of us got into a taxi van and headed to another early start. This time our destination was a hotel where in the conference room we heard from one of the members of the TAS. I found pretty interesting that in the same room where we were holding he meeting athletes had come and gone in the past few days in order to present their cases in hopes for gaining a spot for the Olympics “on the table”. Apparently a couple of Austrian skiers didn’t see fair that they had been excluded from the competition so they went to the TAS to have their cases heard. Unfortunately for them, both cases were heard and rejected.



After the talk I approached the TAS member that was giving us the lecture and asked him about the case of the Mexican Soccer team regarding clembuterol during the Gold Cup. He was not aware of the case which I highly doubt. Too bad, I really wanted to hear his opinion.


Next we had a lecture by the former major of Salt Lake City and one of the key members of the successful bid for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. She was also one of the most important persons that successfully promoted the presence of Women Ski Jumping in the Olympics. In the next few days that competition will begin for the first time in the history of Olympic Games. Of course we had to ask her about the bribing scandal for the Salt Lake City bid. She cleverly said that they had learned from what Nagano had done for the 1998 bid when SLC lost to them. Gifts, gifts, gifts…


We then headed back to the Olympic Park where we were invited to the Pyeonyang House. They greeted us with a nice scarf and free booze! They were presenting the next Winter Olympic Games which will take place in that South Korean city. I didn’t know before we got there, but it wasn’t only us in the house,Thomas Bach, the President of the IOC was present too! Here’s a picture I took of him walking right next to me before entering the house.



Later we met the one and only Masato Mizuno! I know I’ve been saying this and probably will continue to do so, it has been one of my favorite lectures! He is such an amazing guy. I had no idea about his retail company (which he didn’t talk about). He only focused on the Tokyo 2020 bid and how they managed to win. He spoke about the 6 bidding elements and how they bounced back after losing to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Games: “Keep the best improve the rest.”



1.       1. The Plan – vision, concept, and legacy


2.      2.  Support other people.


3.       3. International and domestic communication


4.       4. Evaluation commission – no mistakes.


5.       5. Presentation.


6.       6. Lobbying


I specially loved the lobbying part. Totally made sense from what we had heard earlier in the day with the Salt Lake City bid.


To finish of what had been a great day, a couple of us went to the Azimut Hotel where the Heineken Holland House was located. Unfortunately for us only 2 out of the 5 that went had tickets for the event. I stayed with the other 2 and had a few drinks at the hotel’s bar. It was a great decision because I met Ruud, OC member for the Netherlands. I chatted with him for about 2 hours, we talked about the Olympics, Mexico, his girlfriend, our mutual interest in charity foundations, and more. I told him about us not having tickets for the Heineken House and how it was impossible to get any tickets online. He promised that he’d try to get some tickets for me for another night. I gave him my business card and hoped that he would contact me the next day.


So to recap a regular Sunday:


          Snoring


          Crowded van


          Met TAS member


          Met former major of Salt Lake City


          Met the IOC president.


          Enjoyed the lecture by one of the most influential Japanese men in the world.


          Added a new friendship in Ruud.


Not bad for a Sunday!

The First Days #michinsochi

I’m writing this on the night of Saturday February 8th.
I have been 2 nights and 3 days in Sochi the controversial capital of this 2014
Winter Olympic Games. Things have been polarizing, but that does not in any way
mean that they have been bad, all the contrary, I have had a real good time in
Russia!

I got to Sochi around 9pm of the 6th, my
birthday, it was the quickest birthday of my life. Traveling against the
time-zone made it that way. I made it clear that it would not affect my
celebrations so I treated myself well with a nice beer and a schnitzel at the
Frankfurt airport during my layover.

After my 7 hour flight from Dulles Airport to Frankfurt, my
two-and-a-half layover in Germany, and the subsequent four hour flight to
Sochi, I finally made it to Olympic territory. I was greeted by half a dozen
police-men waiting for us right outside the airplane’s door. One had an
intimidating camera who was taping each and every one that was getting out of
the plane. I highly doubt they planned on showing our arrival on Russian TV. I
passed customs fairly quickly but with a sense of tense calm. The custom
officers were friendly and polite, but there was something in the air that was
a bit uneasy.

As I walked outside the pick-up baggage area, I saw hundreds
of people with signs trying to locate the people they were supposed to pick up.
After a few minutes of struggle I found a familiar name on one of the signs and
approached the man holding it. We struggled with language barriers for about 10
minutes until I finally realized that he was trying to tell me that my
classmate, owner of the name on the sign, had already arrived and was waiting
for me at the car. I could write an entire blog post about her, but long story
short, she brought 3 huge bags to Sochi, with one that included exclusively
Cokes (yes Coca-Colas) and bottled water. She had her reasons, very poor ones
if I can judge that.

We got to our hotel. A nice guest-house with about 15 rooms
and at least 75% of them booked exclusively for our group. Aside from the fact
that the rooms do not smell very well (it could very well be my roommate’s
fault and not the hotel’s) and that the bathroom floods every time someone
takes a shower, there are very few things one could complain about.

After going out for a few drinks to end up my shortest
birthday, we got some sleep and promptly woke-up pretty early to start with our
intense schedule. We went to the Olympic Park to get our accreditations. One
for the USOC (United States Olympic Committee), the mandatory Spectator Pass
(if you want to go to any event, you have to have one of those), and a 2-day
pass for the USA House inside the Olympic Park where I’ll be volunteering twice
in the next few days.

We got an amazing tour of the Olympic Park and the USA House
before any of those opened to the general public the day of the Opening
Ceremony. Senior Executives from the USOC gave us a couple of lectures about
logistics and transportation, my area of expertise, and also got a training
session for our upcoming volunteering days at the USA House

Some of the group members stayed around at the Olympic House
while the rest of the group went to pick-up pre-purchased tickets and watch the
opening ceremony in a restaurant. After our meals, 5 of us decided to go to the
Fan Fest near our hotel, a place with a huge TV screen and some food stands. It
was only Russians trying to get into that place, it seemed like a nightclub with
bouncers deciding who gets in and who doesn’t. Fortunately I took advantage of
our multiple accreditations and from way back in the crowd got the bouncer’s
attention while flashing me credentials and they allowed us in. Sochi is not
that different from our Western culture. Inside things only exploded with
cheers after the Russian delegation showed up in the huge screen. I was the
only one who cheered when the Mexican delegation composed of Hebertus Von
Hohenlohe (yes, just him) showed up on the screen.

After that we went back to our hotel, not before stopping in
a convenience store and grabbing a traditional Russian Vodka. We had a nice
chat in our hotel’s kitchen over a few drinks and went to bed. We woke up early
(again) and went to the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS). It’s an enormous
place, I can almost say it’s unnecessarily huge. All the technology that they
have in there is mind-blowing: servers, computers, TVs, gadgets, all
interconnected to the International Signal that feeds the images that you watch
back at home, wherever that is, projected on your screen. I will not forget the
tour of this place.

Also, we got to talk to people in charge of communications
of the USOC, writers from Yahoo!, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, and some
others. People that have been part of the Olympics for decades, listening to
their stories was very fulfilling and they were very welcoming. Our professor,
Dr. Lisa Delpy Neirotti is a very accomplished and recognized person in the field,
everyone knows her, EVERYONE. That’s quite helpful.

A former silver Olympic medalist gave us a great chat, we
got to talk to a logistics person (and alumni of GW) of NBC, and take a lot of
picture. Even I got a chance to give a press conference (not really, but the
picture is awesome).

My favorite part so far of the Olympics has to do with my
least favorite part. I had plans to go to 2 events today, Luge and Ski Jumping.
I had to pick-up tickets for the first one and already had in my possession my
tickets for the latter. After leaving the OBS and a series of poor decisions on
my part, I realized that I had lost my ticket for the Ski Jumping event. I got
so mad at myself but somehow kept my cool and went to pick-up the other tickets.
It can be hard to move around in Sochi if not going from the Olympic Park to
main streets. Not every taxi driver is willing to take you anywhere, not even
for a 20 minute ride.

I finally got back and headed up to the mountain-cluster.
The high-speed train is not a high speed train after all, it’s a train and
sometime it moves faster than a human walking. The Luge event was pretty cool.
It’s amazing the speed of these artefacts and amazing athletes. But then, the
main event, the event for which I had paid over $100 USD and lost the ticket. I
decided to head to the event and had 5 options in my mind. 1) Somehow get to
reprint my ticket (it’s possible), 2) Play the dumb-tourist card, 3) sneak in
4) convince someone to take pity on me or 5) buy a ticket outside the venue. My
3 newest friends, the ones with whom I had planned to go to that event were sad
about my ticket situation, but seemed a little unsure about my plans, I don’t
blame them, but they don’t know that well.

Turns out it was a very poor organization for the event. The
lines were huge to get into the gondola that would take us to the venue. That
lack of organization helped out with what turned out to be my favorite moment
thus far. As we were in line, we realized I needed a ticket for the event in order
to get to the gondola (unlike for Luge where they scanned the ticket after
traveling in the gondola). Basically options 1 and 5 were out of the table. I
realized it was time for a combination of 2, 3, and 4. I told my friends to get
in past the ticket check and wait for me. As it was my turn to check my ticket
I scanned my Spectator Pass and then in a hollywoodesque performance started to
look for my ticket. There were hundreds of people behind me and chaos was all
over. I got past security but kept playing dumb “I lost my ticket!!, hey Ryan
do you have my ticket?!”, no one spoke English and only one security guy seemed
to care that I had passed security without a ticket. I approached him (not ran
away, that’s for amateurs) and told him what happened, he had no idea what I
was saying. He told me to wait while he went for someone that spoke English, or
at least that’s what I imagined he said. But passed security, volunteers were
urging us to hop into the gondolas, they needed people to keep moving. I looked
at my friends and they had a nervous face, couldn’t believe what just happened.
I decided to be a good sport and follow the volunteer’s indications so I hopped
into the gondola and rode along my friends. No one checked our tickets at the
top. It was another incredible event. It has been an excellent couple of days
here in Sochi!

Until next time!