Joel Reichenberger: Saying my goodbyes to a great Olympics
February 22, 2014
Krasnaya Polyana, Russia — Covering the Olympics is fun.
It was fun before we even got to Russia, thinking about and executing big ideas leading up to the Winter Olympics. And it's been fun since we arrived, writing about and photographing events that the world is talking about.
It's fun hearing from friends and family who are reading along and enjoying what I'm doing.
It's fun waking up every day knowing an incredible and new experience awaits, and it's even fun when those experiences begin to become a bit routine.
"YAWN, just another Olympic event to cover."
Indeed, elements of covering the Olympics became routine during the 18 days I spent in Sochi.
Some of those strange misunderstandings and persistent problems that defined our first days here began to make sense.
For instance, we learned the name of our hotel, the Gorki Gorod Apart-Hotel.
By Day 3, we were able to ride buses to events with some confidence as to where and when we would end up.
By Day 6, we figured out where to buy groceries, and by Day 7, we learned where, if we happened to be finished working before midnight, we could catch a bus to grab a few beers and interact with non-journalists.
By Day 11, we figured out how to ride that bus back.
I began dreading the end of the Olympics before they began, the way you do a vacation you've been plotting for six months.
I told myself that the Olympics wouldn't really even be started until the snowboard half-pipe events.
They came and went.
I told myself the end wasn't near until Nordic combined's final two competitions.
Then they were finished.
It won't be time to leave, I considered, until Justin Reiter has competed in both Alpine snowboarding races.
Then he wrapped up his Olympics on Saturday morning.
I wasn't ready to say goodbye, however. I have plenty to do before we leave early Sunday to catch our late-morning flight to Moscow, but there were a few events Saturday, our last full day on the job, and I wanted to soak in as much as possible.
Once parallel slalom wrapped up, Steamboat Springs-connected snowboarder Vic Wild earning his second gold medal for another country, I opted to bypass the easy choice: to go to the media center to write a story on Reiter and to process the day's photographs.
Instead, I decided to climb a grueling set of stairs, then catch the gondola to the Alpine skiing center in time to watch the men's slalom, the last ski race of these Olympics.
I fell in with a flock of Russians making the same trek, sweating heavily as I labored up the 561 steps while hauling my backpack, doing everything I could to keep a young Russian girl in a fluffy bunny hat from passing me.
I thought about the people we've met, like Lou Reuter covering the Olympics for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise near Lake Placid, N.Y., and John Branch, the only Pulitzer Prize winning writer who knows my name and follows me on Twitter. (I haven't felt this much pressure to be witty since I met my fiance.)
I thought about what we've learned about the Russians: they cheer loud, love doing "the wave" in sports arenas and eat a lot of hot dogs, often all at the same time.
I thought about what we've discovered about this place, named Krasnaya Polyana, a fact I picked up on Day 2 after shouting out in the media center, "WHERE AM I?"
And I thought about how adept we've become at doing our jobs here, so far from home, doing them well and doing them our way.
Finally I got to the top, to step 561, and then I got on the gondola going the wrong direction.
Goodbye, Sochi. I'll miss you.