Thursday, 20 February 2014

Hockey Wesnesday in Russia!

And it really was the Russian version of Hockey night in Canada as I was seating just 50 m away from Don Cherry and Ron McLean for the Canada game!
On Monday, I tried to buy tickets for the Finland-Russia but it was obviously sold-out. I still gave it a try as I wanted a single ticket and they are always easier to get. Unfortunately not this time. As the first game of the day was featuring Sweden, aka Tre Kronor, home country of several Canucks players, it was an easy decision to pick up a ticket for that game instead!
Sweden has easily gone through their group and earned a direct spot to the 1/4 finals (along with the USA, Canada and Finland).
They were playing against surprise Slovenia who had gone through the exploit of eliminating (Los Angeles Kings Anze Kopitar's) Slovakia!!
I was seating twenty rows from the ice where Latvia shot twice. Translation of that hockey lingo was that I had good seats to see King Henrik do what he's the best at!
The first period was even and Slovenia was giving Tre Kronor a run for their money. Sweden dominated and went on winning 5-0.
The game quickly went back to reality in the second I was seating twenty rows from the ice where Latvia shot twice.
Canucks Daniel Sedin scored a goal (his first of 2014!!) and New York Rangers Carl Hagelin scored two.
Sitting close by to me was a Canadian. Poor lad missed the second goal and came back asking who scored. Always happy to help I answered "Daniel Sedin" which was met by a "ahahah the Sedins sisters!" Gggggrrr. Only took a split second to answer him back "we are so not going to be friends". Upon more questioning, he appeared to be from Calgary. It all made sense!!
Anyway, I did not stopped there and went on asking him how many Flames were playing in the Olympics. I knew the answer but just wanted to remind him that his NHL team SUCKS! Ahah! His answer "nobody but almost" yes, almost like you almost never make the playoffs!!!
Anyway, we both agreed we would be on the same side in the evening!
After the game, I met with Luke and we went to see the Russia Fans House were there was a display of all sports and Russian athletes and a talk with former soviet gymnasts. It was interesting and the highlight was finally finding a ticket holder for my Olympics tickets! Hihi!
I then headed to the medal plaza to watch the end of Finland-Russia which was already 3-1 in favour of the Finns. With 8 min left there was nothing Russia was able to do to come back. What a desolating spectacle the medal plaza was.
How did Russia get eliminated with so much talent? Malkin, Ovechkin, Datsyuk, Kovalchuk and co? With it we were getting deprived of a much anticipated Canada-Russia final ��
Since I had a couple of hours to kill before the game, I decided to stay for the medal ceremony. Which did not start at 19h has announced but at 20h14!!! In the meantime I had to put with some kind of Russian Idol singer (Mitya Formin I believe). Well let's just say that I might not be his biggest fan!!!
The torch fountains were then lit up with a sound show. Quite pretty for the part I saw. People in the crowds had no respect for each other and it was very hard to see anything, let alone move....
Time came for the first ceremony, and with luck it was for the Slalom Giant Women I attended on Tuesday!!
I'm not liking this day after medal ceremony. It takes all the momentum and emotions away and the true fans who went to events don't get to witness the medal ceremony... This just scream money making so people will buy tickets to the ceremony.
I then headed for the big deal of the day, Team Canada 1/4 final. For this one I was up in the nosebleeds, but nosebleeds at the Bolchoy Dome are about first rows at Rogers Arena (for the connoisseurs!). Latvia was on the plan after surprisingly defeating Switzerland the day before in the qualification game.
I was sitting next to a Canadian from Newfoundland, and I knew they had a strong accent there, but nothing prepared me for this! I had to ask him to repeat everything - never had a clue what he was saying!
He was the surprised one when he did not know who 22 was and I had to tell him it was Jamie Benn, of the Dallas Stars. He greeted me with a "oh- you know your hockey!" Ahah, coming from a Canadian I took it as a compliment!
The game itself was much different from an NHL paced game I am used to, as the ice is bigger and the luck kept rolling. Latvia was on, and their goaltender put on a master lass stopping 53 of the 55 pucks directed at him.
Sharp opened the score in the first period but the joy was short lived as Latvia scored shortly after. The second period went scoreless and palpitations and sweat were starting to be seen in the arena in the third. Could there be a second upset that day?
Thankfully, the Canadian powerplay and a bomb by (BC born) Shea Weber released the pressure with 7 min left.
Around 3 min left, my Newfie neighbour was screaming victory, but I, the Canucks fan, told him that nothing is done until it's over! I still have nightmares of Toews scoring on the Canucks Game 7 with 20 sec left in the game!
Speaking of Mr Toews, he is the player that I noticed the most in the game. He's just a defensive monster!
I was soooo happy to be able to attend the Canada game, just made me realise even more how much I miss watching live hockey! Fingers crossed for the rest of the tournament!
GO CANADA!

Couple more pics:
Don Cherry's wonderful jacket (as usual)



Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Ski, snow and Club France: a day in Красная Поляна!

(There will be an update and pictures of the ice-dance competition later on)
On Tuesday, I took my first (and only) trip to the Mountain Cluster for the Women Slalom and to finally meet up with Emilie!
The weather condition were planned to be heavy rain so I finally was able to use all those winter clothes and thermals I had brought all the way with me!
Early day it was and I headed to the train station at 7. The trip to the Krasnaya Polyana hub is 50 kms and it took 1h45 to get there and it wasn't even the end of the journey.
So far, for me, the slowness of the train is the only glitch of those Olympics. Having to spend so much time commuting to cover so little distances is killing me. Maybe there was a Window for Alsthom or Bombardier on those Olympics? Anyway too late. And everything else has been amazing so that's really just a small complain.
Happened to be sitting on said train with 2 French guys from Paris who had WON a trip to the Olympics with RMC (French radio).
One of them was so blasé about it I could have slapped him. He was unhappy with everything, the events he got, the distance between coastal and mountain clusters and kept taking about the money the Russians spent and how it will all go to be ruins once the OG were over.
He also went on a rant on how people couldn't speak English and the abnormality of it. At this point, I went the obnoxious Olympic expert know it all way with him and gave him an explanation on what most of the venues will become and reminded him how the Krasnodar region was quite remote and not Moscow. My "vous pensez que si vous allez en Creuse vous allez trouver des gens qui parlent anglais?" seemed to shut him up for a while.
What is wrong with people? You just got an ALL EXPENSES PAID trip to the greatest show on earth, just enjoy it!
(The other guy was quieter and seemed more open minded).
This type of people are the reason why I always make a point of saying I don't live in France. Rant over.
Once we made it to Krasnaya Polyana, we had to take two buses to Rosa Khutor (Alpine skiing center) and then a very steep cable cabin up to the mountain.
The not so little secret is that I'm terrified of mountains cable cabins... I can travel round the world in planes, trains and any cars - but being suspended hundreds of meters above a valley scares the sh*t outta me.
I can't explain it, it just does!!!
And lucky me did not even get a seat, so I was wonderfully able to have a 360 view on all that emptiness!!
I tried not to think about it and I made it up to the mountains!
There I finally met with Emilie! They has brought the beginning of the competition forward by 90 min (without notice) so I missed the biggest part of the first run. It was pouring down with rain, but I still enjoyed the end of that run. I had never been to a ski event before and the steepness of the slopes was very impressive! Kudos to the skiers for taking that at such a speed!
I was quite happy with our standing tickets, as it wouldn't have been impossible to sit, and Emilie had arrived early and got us great spots on the first row! The views were great.

We went down for a coffee at intermission and had a lengthy chat with 3 Russians from Krasnodar City, all in Russian if course! My brain was so tired after!!! We obviously had to pose for the usual "you're the first French people I meet" photo with them.
It was then time for the last run of the 30 best times ladies. By then it had started snowing heavily at the top of the slope and the race was delayed by 10-15min. While it could have been a let down, it was actually great to see snow. We are at the WINTER Olympics after all!! ��
Once the race started, all the girls had a good run (only 1 fall) and the French skier (check name) remained in a Bronze position for a while.
That unfortunately did not happen, but as we were surrounded by many German people and the German lady did get bronze we were able to join in and celebrate! The Franco-German alliance is strong as ever!!
We then headed back towards Krasnaya Polyana. It was cable cabin time again!! Yeah!!! The cabin was made of a big group of CBC sponsored Canadians, more Russians and our dear Krasnodar friends who had had a few beers since we left them.
Krasnodar lady decided that everybody should know I could "speak" Russian and went on to repeat our entire conversation from earlier to all of them!! I was a bit gobsmacked but I was in a middle of a 'bonding' with two Montreal Canadians Canadiens fans over 'our' common hate about the Boston Bruins!
Who said hockey was a violent sport? It has brought nothing but love to me! Lol.
Krasnodar lady was not done yet and she took to me to be liaising with the Canadians as she wanted to know if the Canadian group was enjoying their time in Sochi/Russia.
And we all ended up singing "Россиа, Россиа" in the cable cabin!! What an awesome moment it was! And yours truly totally forgot she was suspended in the air in the middle of nothing!
We then headed to the Club France in Krasnaya Polyana for a bit of warmth and see what the French team was up to in the medal ranking!
As soon as I walked into the Club France, I walked into who is probably my favourite athlete ever, all sports all countries included - Marina Anissina!! Time to react she was almost gone, but kindly stopped for one picture! Unfortunately, I never know what to say to her... I'm just in awe at what she achieved and the sacrifice she went through to achieve it, words fail me everytime! We just took to our seats in time to watch the great end to Martin Fourcade's third race - he literally missed gold by ONE inch!!! Tough, but so far two golds and one silver in one Olympics is something to be proud of!!
Club France had flown a French chef in, and that Poulet Provençal and Speculoos cheesecake were de.li.cious!! Eating those at the same table as French Olympic Gold Medallists Luck Alphand and Edgar Grospiron did not hurt either!
It was a good day for France with a Gold in Snowboard, a Silver in Biathlon and a Bronze in half-pipe!
It was 7pm and time to head home after a great day!

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Wine tasting in a forest with 12 Russians? Welcome to Saturday in Sochi!

Saturday was a day off -i.e. no Olympics event to attend :( after another lie-in - I'm on holidays after and another filling breakfast (it's unlimited!), I headed to book an excursion through my hotel. As per many other places, they did not speak a word of English, but thanks to my basic Russian, some pointing and some pictures, I managed to understand and book an excursion to Ахун.
Which basically means that I was going somewhere that was hilly. But where and what to see, I did not have a clue. The clue wasn't given when the booking lady took me to the bus stop and and told me I would be the only foreigner in the group and told the other 2 guys at that stop "she's French and she doesn't speak Russian, please look after her"! Which led me to have my picture taken with those two guys from Siberia as I was "the first person from France they had seen in their life". So if you ever go to Siberia, look for a picture of me!
And nobody spoke a word of English in the bus either! So here I was in a mini-bus full of Russians (they were lovely don't get me wrong), and the guide wouldn't stop talking either! But there was nice things to see on the way and we stopped at Аргунское ущелье to see a 'waterfall'. The walk up to there was quite nice (you can't beat 18 degrees, blue sky and sun in February!)
Vassili our guide
The good thing about not knowing what was happening is the total surprise that came from having a wine tasting in a dacha in the middle of the forest! Wine, red and liquor! Along with a 30 min explanation on how to make wine, en russe dans le texte! The other surprise is that the wine was quite good!
Wine tasting place
Wine tasting guy
We then left on very small roads to go up to Ахун. Up there there was a mini castle with 360 views on the mountains and the coast. What I was not expecting at the top of the hill was a Ferris Wheel!
Old style tea maker
And just like that the excursion was over! I was back in time to the seaside to see the sunset!
Tomorrow we're back to the Olympic Park for more figure skating! The Short Dance should give us a good idea on the final result and whether L'Equipe scoop on a USA-Russia alliance stands!