Sochi Winter Olympics: Rain, Speed Skating And Showering In The Snow

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I’m not sure what I thought the Winter Olympics would be like – but I didn’t expect it to be this wet. It’s now been raining again for four days straight. Low cloud seems to permanently hang around the mountain sides, or rather hills. Their peaks look like someone accidentally dropped talcum powder on the top and tried to blow it off. The rest is brown. Brown rivers, brown mud, brown trees.

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Horrendous photo, just to show the view all up the way up to Krasnaya Polyana

Down by the coast, huge puddles are forming outside the International Broadcast Centre, soaking feet as people run for the bus. The neatly landscaped flower beds are turning into sodden patches of mud. The tiled floors inside the security screening area is quickly becoming a lethal slip hazard. Forget terrorists, it’s these wet floors that are going to get everyone.

So today, I waded over to the Olympic Park to escape the rain. The Olympic Park is like an Escher painting. You see the stadiums in the distance. You think, they’re not that far away. Fifteen minutes later, you’re still walking towards them and they don’t appear to be getting any closer.

I finally found my way in to the media centre inside the skating training rink. It was very quiet, just me and one other journalist from BBC Sport. The USA Short Track team were just about to start practicing. The athletes came out dressed head-to-toe in black lycra with little ankle-height ice skating boots. They waddled towards the ice rink with these huge gleaming gold blades attached to their boots – and started skating.

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I’ve never really seen speed skating before, but it’s amazing how silent it is. If you think about ice rinks in England during the winter, they’re packed out with wobbly beginners, screaming children and teenage boys cutting people up. It’s not a quiet place. There’s plenty of shrieks and slaps as bums hit the ground. Here in the speed skating arena, it’s perfectly silent as the team glide in unison around the rink. Silent apart from a faint click as the razor-sharp gold blades tap the ice. It’s possibly the most satisfying noise you’ll ever hear. If I can record it for you, I will.

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They’re beautifully graceful to watch. They lap the rink as a group before splitting off into fours and seamlessly merging into single file. After a few laps, it’s back to coaching – or joking around. These guys like to have a laugh too which is good to see, particularly the blokes who enjoy pushing each other off the benches and throwing water bottles around. Then it’s over to the iPads to presumably analyse their laps on video.

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Oh god, I can’t go without mentioning the music. Firstly, they have those awful outdoor speakers so you’re forced to listen to bad club music blasted from every corner of the Olympic Park. It’s such a big area that the speakers are doing that horrible echo thing that happens when sound travels across long distances. Inside the arenas, it gets worse. Today I heard ‘Under The Sea’ from The Little Mermaid sung by some sort of Hilary Duff/Serena Gomez hybrid. Twice. I kid you not.

On the positive side, the building look very nice and the ice rinks are immaculate. So shiny, you could practically lick them. They have all have seriously efficient crews manning them. And on a complete side note, yesterday I saw a man outside the broadcast compound on the mountain standing topless, washing his armpits with snow. I only wish I’d got a picture.


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