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Wednesday, 12 March 2014

My Musing on Sochi Olympics.

Goodbye Sochi. Goodbye Rossiya. I will miss you.  Yes, The Olympic Games got under my skin. I was awaiting to watch the games, but I had no idea that I'll get so much soaked into the whole activities around the Olympic village. 

Probably before I tell you about how my romance with Sochi began I should give you a little background about common grounds and cultural similarities between Russians and Armenians. At one point in time Armenia and Russia were neighbors and shared borders, however, over centuries, because of many invasions Armenia lost its lands and it shrunk to the size of the state of Maryland. I bet not many people can find it on the map. Being neighbors, Russian literature and culture influenced Armenian a lot.

The name of Sochi was not foreign to me.  During Soviet times, my extended  family who lived in Armenia, spent summers at the resort town of Sochi, which was developed by Josef Stalin. Although I was born and raised in Iran, as an Armenian I too carry a closeness to Russian culture and traditions.

Despite the huge amount of concerns about terrorism threats, the infrastructure issues or ugly demonstrations, luckily Sochi embraced the Olympics with only some minor and maybe comical incidents such as an athlete breaking a bathroom door to exit or commentator Bob Costa not being able to report because of an eye infection.

I should admit that NBC gave us a fascinating coverage of the Olympics.  Every morning I woke up to see on TV the NBC hosts of "Today" show, on location in Sochi, sitting outside in open air and enjoying the unexpected crisp weather, approaching to 60 degrees with melting ice and snow, when their counterparts in New York were shivering in deep freeze. 

In charming touches NBC wrapped up the previous days events. The crew told us not only about the games, but also their personal activities around the town. Janelle Wang who is an anchor woman on NBC Bay Area, raved about a bowl of Borscht she had at Sochi. Olympic officials had estimated that 70,000 gallons of Borscht would be served in Sochi.

We saw Al Rocker and Matt Lauer open themselves to the spirit of Russia by taking steam bath "à la Rossya" and then a massage by being smacked with eucalyptus leaves.  Ouch... Rocker joked: "You may want to keep the kids away." Then Matt Lauer was ushered into a Russian style pedicure place. He dipped his feet in a fish tank, where thousands of tiny fish nibbled on his feet's dead skin.  I was re-living their experiences.

For two weeks, my TV was set on NBC. I admit, I was mostly interested to watch the figure skating part — and what a show.  One of the unforgettable moments came when Meryl Davis and Charlie White blazed their way on ice to the tune of Sheherzad and made history by becoming the first American pair to win an ice dancing gold medal. It was super excited to witness their flawless steps. They proved that seventeen grueling years of practice was worth it.

Another awe inspiring story featured on NBC was about Jessica Long, a double amputee and a Russian born orphan, who was adopted by an American Family when she was only 13 months old.  The documentary called "Long Way Home," chronicles the journey of Jessica Long, a world class swimmer and 12 times Paralympic gold medalist, who travels back to Russia to trace her birth place and her family.  I couldn't hold back my tears when the moment arrived that her birth mother hurried to great Jessica and placed kiss after kiss on her cheeks.  My heart melted.

During Sunday’s Closing Ceremony, Russia poked fun at its infamous Opening Ceremony hiccup in which one of the five giant hydraulic snowflakes failed to transform into five interlocking Olympic Rings, leaving only four rings and a snowflake. On closing night I watched the beautiful choreographed dancers wearing bright, glittery outfits converging to make the interlocking Olympic rings. But, just like 16 nights ago, the fifth ring didn’t form.  The dancers in the clump waited a few seconds and then formed a ring of their own.  The action drew laughs from the crowd and put a smile on my face.

The most memorable moment, for me, came when Misha the Bear, the popular Mascot of Russia, waved goodbye to the world and tears roll down on his cheek. My heart skipped a beat.

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