MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Savoring the “small” moments

I keep getting the same nagging feeling.

With each passing day of the 2014 Winter Olympics, I am bombarded with experience after unique experience.

But, I wonder, how many will just as rapidly slip from my memory?

I am a big believer in capturing moments however possible. On a week-long vacation, I will snap a thousand photos. When I have time at home, I write a journal about my day. I do it all in a seemingly vain pursuit: to remember as many of the numerous encounters and events that make up my life.

But at the Olympics, in a strange way, this task is more difficult.

Even though I am equipped with a variety of moment-capturing devices – my WXIA-TV video camera, for starters, as well as a smart-phone and laptop – I cannot possibly find the time to snap everything I see in Sochi. And the experiences happen both sporadically yet furiously.

The smaller moments – the more likely ones to slip through my memory’s cracks – are the ones I savor the most.

These are the chance encounters: the cheerful Russian Starbucks barista who remembers my name every day; the Asian journalist who tried to trade pins with me despite a massive language barrier; the Dutch speed skating team that happily granted my interview request by the Olympic rings.

When will these moments ever come up in conversation? When will they naturally pop into my head? How will I remember them if I experience so many of them?

With that in mind, I write this entry both as a window for my readers and a public continuation of that vain pursuit. I want to share a few of the “smaller” encounters that have made this Olympic experience so rich:


Perhaps you have heard that the 2014 Winter Games have felt strangely homogeneous. Most of the fans are Russian; an IOC official told me yesterday they have sold 70-75% of their tickets so far to residents of the host country.

Finding foreign fans in that mix — let alone ones that speak English — has become an occasional challenge.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I bumped into this family from the Netherlands. On Day 1 of the Olympics, these folks were my first official fan interviews.

They could not have been more jolly — or better dressed.

(I do not know if you can tell, but the dad’s hat says “VIP”.)

The Games had just begun, and the crowd felt both small and quiet. Meeting this family provided an early burst of joy, the types of which typically define the Olympic fan experience.


Another hallmark of that experience?

Trading pins.

I could write a whole entry (and probably will) on the enormously rewarding underbelly of the Olympics that is pin trading. For now, allow me to share one encounter:

If you cannot tell from the above picture, my pin chain — built by trading 11Alive pins and others with athletes, spectators, and fellow media members — had developed into a gaudy beast by the end of my first week in Sochi. I would, and continue to, get stopped by fans who wanted to trade with me or admire my collection.

This gentleman above was such a fan.

“Hey!” he yelled as I walked into the Olympic park. “Nice chain!”

I said thanks and noted he had some pretty impressive pins himself.

“I know,” he responded. And then, with a wide smile, he added, “People call me Two Chains!”

My group and I stopped in our tracks.

Then we laughed.

This gentleman could not be further from 2 Chainz the rapper, but he made our day … and then traded us some pins.


Is it fair to call an interview with a gold medalist a “small moment”?

Because it really wasn’t. By the second full day of events, I had already interviewed two American Olympic champions. I first spoke with Sage Kotsenburg, the men’s slopestyle gold winner who instantly became a national craze, thanks to his liberal use of words like “stoked” and “random”.

The day after, I interviewed the woman in the photo above: women’s slopestyle gold medalist Jamie Anderson.

And the whole thing went by in a snap.

Anderson came by my platform after a series of other interviews with local reporters. We had about 30 seconds to chat before we started recording; we had even less time afterwards before the next reporter stepped in. Anderson seems perfectly nice, but I doubt this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

After she left, I continued with the rest of my assignments. Anderson’s interview became just another example of churning out content.

But it was still a truly thrilling moment — one I appreciate the more I think about it.


Finally, I leave you with this photo. It is one of many I could have taken of Russian fans who wanted their picture with me.

The Olympics could not be more crammed with media. Seemingly every country possesses multiple crews, all of whom breathlessly cover many of the same stories.

Seemingly just as many fans want to breathlessly cover the media.

Every time I set up my camera to shoot a stand-up, and sometimes when I shoot an interview, people of all ages pop up with their cell phones. Floating around online, no doubt, are numerous photos of me simply doing my job; I will most likely never see them.

But for the purposes of my own memory, I decided to take advantage of an opportunity. On Tuesday, when a Russian family followed my interview with them by asking for a photo, I made sure they took one with my camera as well. This way I could also savor the memory.

It is one of so, so many memories that have encapsulated my Olympic journey.

FOR MORE ON MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: The Games have … begun?
FOR MORE ON MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: 10 observations from the first 5 days

Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at

5 thoughts on “MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Savoring the “small” moments

  1. Zach "Zenjamin" Benjamin says:

    My friend, though I consider myself jaded having enjoyed so many remarkable travel experiences myself, the one you are having right now represents the first time that I have ever been envious of someone else’s–and I mean that in the best possible way! I look forward to your blog entries each day, and until I finally cross the Olympics off of my bucket list, I am thrilled to be living them vicariously through you. Keep up the outstanding work!

  2. Matt says:

    Zach, thanks for the kind words! Being here a few days, I totally see how enjoyable the Olympics can be from a fan’s perspective. It’s one for the bucket list, for sure.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


Enter your email and keep up to date ...