The Olympics are really about the athletes and celebrating the achievements they’ve made after four years of hard work. The majority of the competitors go home without a medal. Instead, organizers make sure they come away from the Games with the experience of a lifetime.
That experience starts when they arrive at the Athletes’ Village. At Sochi 2014, there are three separate villages that house the athletes. Everyone competing in the coastal cluster is housed in the village there. In Krasnaya Polyana, athletes are based either at the Endurance Village (home of cross-country/biathlon athletes) or at the Mountain Village (skiers, snowboarders, sliders).
On the day of the opening ceremony, I had the opportunity to visit the Mountain Village to help out a producer interview Mexican skier Humbertus van Hohenlohe (more about him later).
Each delegation participates in a “Welcome Ceremony” at their respective village. Up to five or six countries get grouped into one ceremony at a time. And considering that many of these athletes won’t win a gold medal, this is likely their only opportunity to hear their country’s anthem and see their flag raised.
The ceremony starts with the athletes walking into the Village Plaza. Children hand picked from around Sochi show up and cheer them on in perhaps the corniest and cutest thing you’ll ever see.
I think if anyone wants to eventually direct an opening ceremony, his or her entry level job would be to produce this welcome ceremony. As small as it is, organizers go all out. They get some “celebrity” to host the festivities. In this case, this was a Russian television host. Then some big name athlete gets involved as the ambassador to welcome the athletes. There’s some exchanging of gifts, the flag gets raised and the country’s anthem is heard. And then there’s this cheesy song:
It’s possibly the most cringe-worthy/weird moment these athletes will experience. At least the song was catchy.
In my next post, I’ll talk about two athletes I had the pleasure of meeting at the Athletes’ Village.