Sochi Sidelines Part 2: amusements, politics and bloopers at Russia's Winter Games

In this installment: organisers face yet more snags; athletes make time for Valentine's Day; and an athlete's mum is tougher than the critics

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 5:46pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 5:48pm
Olympic rings come full circle

The Olympic rings will be whole again for the closing ceremony. That’s a promise.

Russian deputy prime minister Dmitriy Kozak tells R-Sport that fans will not see a repeat of the glitch that marred the opening ceremony when one of the five rings did not form from a snowflake floating in the sky.

“We will correct this mistake at the closing ceremony,” Kozak told the news agency.

The glitch happened early in the opening ceremony, when snowflakes expanded to form the interlocking rings, which is one of the most anticipated moments of any Olympic opener. Four of the rings unfolded perfectly, but the fifth remained a snowflake before show organisers sent them out of sight.

The mistake was a shaky start to an otherwise well-received show that ended with hockey great Vladimir Tretiak and figure skating icon Irina Rodnina lighting the Olympic flame.

The closing ceremony is on Sunday night.

Puppy love blossoms for skier

Gus Kenworthy’s victory party back in America to celebrate his silver medal in men’s slopestyle skiing is going to have to wait. He’s still waiting for Russia to let the dogs out. Seriously.

The 22-year-old who lives in Telluride, Colorado, had been scheduled to come home from Sochi on Monday, nearly a week after Kenworthy was part of a historic sweep by the US as slopestyle skiing made its Olympic debut.

Yet Kenworthy’s medal in some ways took a backseat to his decision to adopt four puppies – along with their mother – he discovered near the media centre at the base of the mountain that houses the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

Kenworthy is taking all five dogs back to the US with him, but getting the paperwork done is taking some time. A US skiing official said Kenworthy had to push back his plans so the dogs could join him for the long trip halfway across the world back home.

The reaction to Kenworthy’s decision to adopt the family has gotten perhaps more attention than the medal he claimed alongside gold medallist Joss Christensen and bronze medallist Nick Goepper.

Pop star Miley Cyrus tweeted at Kenworthy on Sunday, saying there were “4 reasons to follow @guskenworthy” while forwarding a picture of Kenworthy playing with his new pooches.


Souvenir chaos

In Sochi’s Olympic Park there are two constants: the Olympic flame burning triumphantly in the middle of the park and the long line of waiting shoppers snaking out of the official store.

Russian retailer Bosco di Ciliegi has told Olympic organisers that it was caught off guard by the demand for souvenirs in Sochi and it has been scrambling to keep the lines moving and the merchandise racks stocked. Average wait times just to get in are more than an hour, and it can take another hour to get through the store to the exit.

Sochi this year spokeswoman Aleksandra Kosterina said the souvenir provider was “sorting this out and hopefully it will work better”.

Marina Novokovskaya says it all worked out for her in the end, but it requires a lot of patience. “I got what I expected,” she said with a bright smile after her two-hour wait.

It was kind of chaotic
Susan Taylor, visitor

Susan Taylor, visiting from London, was able to jump the queue because workers noticed her using a cane and ushered her in. Once there, however, she found things in a bit of disarray. She was looking for a T-shirt in large or XL, but had to settle for an XXL because everything was taken. “It was kind of chaotic,” she said.

According to Bosco, the store has had more than 100,000 visitors since it opened. Every hour, it sells 120 overcoats, more than 1,000 pins and keychains, 400 T-shirts and 210 baseball caps, Bosco said.

Mistaken identity

If the rule is “call it like you see it”, then alpine race announcers broadcasting to fans in the grandstand have not seen too clearly in the past weekend.

Medal winners were mistakenly identified during the men’s super-G race on Sunday despite a personnel change overnight after similar problems at the women’s super-G.

Images of Americans Bode Miller and Andrew Weibrecht in the finish area were broadcast on the giant screen with a commentary naming them as Miller and teammate Ted Ligety, who placed 14th.

That wasn’t the worst of it. Saturday’s winner Anna Fenninger raced down the course as announcers enthused about Tina Weirather’s great run. Weirather was listed No 17 but withdrew injured, so the 17th starter was No 18 Fenninger.

If the Austrian did not hear that flub while racing, she got a second chance moments later when announcers explained their error at length.

The International Ski Federation asked Sochi Olympics organisers, who are responsible for venue presentation, for a tighter show, prompting the changes on Sunday.

Jamaica jives to Bobsled Song

Jamaican bobsled fans have a new tune for their country’s improbable run on Sunday evening. The country’s main tourism agency is touting The Bobsled Song, a tune designed to sync with the two-man run of Marvin Dixon and Winston Watts.

The lyrics and “It’s bobsled time” chorus follow the course of the 1,500-metre track with its 17 turns and vertical drop of 125.5 metres.

Jamaica, a tropical island nation, qualified for the two-man bobsled competition for the first time since 2002, making it without racing in any World Cup events but accumulating enough points in lower-tier races in North America.

The Jamaicans are considered a long shot to win a medal. Jamaica’s run to the Calgary Games in 1988 was depicted in the film Cool Runnings.

Watch: The Bobsled Song


‘You’re the worst Norwegian’: Athlete gets scolded by mum

If Martin Johnsrud Sundby needs a morale boost after his disappointing race at the Sochi Olympics, he shouldn’t look to his mother.

The cross-country skier who leads the overall World Cup was Norway’s biggest hope for a medal in the men’s 15-kilometre classical race on Friday, but ended up ranking 13th, more than 1.5 minutes after winner Dario Cologna of Switzerland.

His mother Gro Johnsrud Langslet was watching the race live in a Norwegian TV studio, and wasn’t exactly impressed with her son’s performance.

Resting her chin in her hand despondently as her son struggled in the warm conditions, Langslet said on DBTV: “You’re the worst Norwegian. You should go home.”

You’re the worst Norwegian. You should go home. ... Look at that. He doesn't stand a chance
Gro Johnsrud Langslet, mother

The comments seemed to be meant as lighthearted banter, but Langslet didn’t mince her words as her son neared the finish.

“Look at that,” she said. “He doesn’t stand a chance.”

Sundby did win a bronze medal in the 30K ski-athlon on Sunday, and Langslet defended her son’s abilities after the race — sort of.

“He isn’t as bad as this indicates,” she said. “This is the worst he’s been this year.”

Be my sporty Valentine

In case you’re wondering: Yes, people celebrate Valentine’s Day in Russia, just like in many other countries. And fancy dinners, flowers and chocolates are just as popular here as they are elsewhere.

US short track skater Jessica Smith got her fiance Mike Kooreman into the athletes’ village on a pass that expired in the evening.

“He brought me roses and some chocolates,” she said. “We’ll probably just to go the cafeteria. It’s a real hot date.” Friday was their third dating anniversary. She says they’ll celebrate more when they get home.

At the curling rink, British curling skip David Murdoch didn’t remember, but said he should probably send something to his wife: “Thanks for reminding me.”

South Korea skip Kim Jisun said she was ignoring it to train and be with her team: “It’s not a special day for us.”

IOC spokeswoman Aleksandra Kosterina had a small surprise waiting for her when she got to her daily press briefing: “Whoever gave it to me, thank you for the valentine.”

American slopestyle ski bronze medallist Nick Goepper sent a series of tweets on Friday in search of a Valentine, including one that reads: “‘Ya hah-chi loob vee’ I’m looking for love - in Russian.”