MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Ten observations from the first two weeks

I am starting to settle into a groove.

The 2014 Winter Olympics are in full swing; events are taking place and leading to dramatic moments; both the mountain and coastal clusters are starting to buzz; and the views remain fully picturesque.

Having said all that, I must say this: the whole thing still seems very isolated.

A colleague and I were talking this morning while watching women’s bobsled practice. We began comparing international trips, and he told me about how, in 1997, he vacationed in Australia. He felt liberated, he said, by his complete anonymity halfway around the world. In a time of few cell phones and extremely limited Internet (he said he brought a pager), he reveled in being completely unchained.

Now in 2014, staying in Russia for a work trip, I carry two cell phones in my hip pocket and plug into an Ethernet connection in the workspace. I submit daily reports for my station in Atlanta and do occasional Olympics wrap-ups for USA Today. I even wear a credential around my neck that has my name, photo, and birthday.

On this trip, I am anything but anonymous.

But the trip itself still feels detached from my regular life.

I know I am in Russia, but I rarely feel like I am seeing its authentic culture. I am living out of a hotel room, in which I spend maybe one hour awake per day. I can name countless ways, many of which I have already documented, in which my life at the Olympics is anything but normal.

At this point, I feel like I have begun to stop worrying and enjoy the ride.

And the ride is very much enjoyable.


MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: The Games have … begun?

What’s the toughest part of covering the Olympics in person? Actually covering the Olympics.

By “the Olympics”, I mean the Olympic events … you know, the actual competitions that serve, in theory, as the purpose of this international extravaganza.

Covering the festivities and atmosphere? Not a problem at all. In many ways, I feel I am most valuable in that role; I can be on the ground, report on how the Olympics feel, and take the viewer to places that often get shortchanged by the official broadcasts.

My goal as a journalist is to serve my audience. And, from what I have seen so far, that audience has responded more to my slice-of-life, behind-the-scenes stories than my posts about the specific events.

So, for the most part, I have spent my days in Sochi observing and reporting on the Olympic surroundings. On Saturday I visited the main park and produced a story about Day 1 of the festivities – and that day’s seemingly meager attendance. On Sunday I spent several hours at the five giant Olympic rings that have become the preeminent photo spot for fans, athletes, and volunteers.

But while I comingle with the crowd, I miss whatever events are taking place. And when I get back to my workspace in the International Broadcast Center, I spend most of the time staring at my computer, logging, writing, and editing my stories (not to mention Tweeting, posting to Facebook, and typing blog entries like these).

This means I rarely get to look at a television and watch the action.