Mary Antoine at Olympics

Olympic Park
Mary Antoine stands in front of the Olympic Park. (Photo contributed by Mary Antoine and Nick DeJulio)

 

Olympic Opening Ceremony was spectacular

By Mary Antoine 

 

Yesterday (Friday) was a full day. Nick and I got up early and took the train to Olympic Park. Judging by the questions on Facebook, there must be many comments in the news about the hotels and security. Let me comment on our experiences. We are staying in a small hotel owned and run by a Russian couple. The hotel is very nice, the food homemade, and the husband and wife are very gracious. They speak little English, but all goes smoothly. Nicholay will drive us anywhere we want to go.

The security is very good and an understated presence. We did not get back to the hotel until 2:30 in the morning and felt safe at all times. There are police and military where everyone goes. They are serious but not intimidating.

The Olympic Park is huge! We spent the afternoon there walking around, then had dinner at the Proctor and Gamble House as part of their “Thank You Moms” program.

The Opening Ceremony was spectacular. It was a portrayal of Russia’s history and so very artistically done. It was a thrill to see the floor open and all the athletes come walking out led by their nation’s flag. The American contingent was one of the largest, so it was hard to spot Matt. He did make it on the big screen, and I guess a lot of you saw him on TV. His smile was, as they say, from ear to ear. Afterward, Nick and I saw him. To say he was very happy is an understatement. Then a long bus ride back to the hotel. We are going to see Matt later today.

Nick and I spent the day hanging out at Rosa Khutor, enjoying mulled wine and German beer and watching various competitions on television. At least two Russian television stations are constantly broadcasting the competitions—one is a live feed with no commercials. The restaurants and bars show whatever is happening, and there is a huge screen in the village center where people can stand and watch. These Olympics are available to everyone.

The Russians have done several things to help all get to the venues and travel between the Coastal Cluster and the Mountain Cluster. There are three transportation hubs in each Cluster where the trains stop and the special Sochi buses stop. If one has a spectator pass, one can ride the train and the Sochi buses for free. There is also public transportation one can ride. After three days, we have figured the system out and are pretty adept at getting where we want to go. At the Mountain Cluster, there are gondolas from the train hubs to the different venues, all of which are high in the mountains.

At the hubs, in the Olympic Park, and elsewhere are hundreds of volunteers. They wear the Sochi 2014 blue coats. They are there to help people. They are very courteous and go out of their way to find an answer. A few speak English well, many do not. But since the vast majority of the people going to the venues are Russian, we truly appreciate the attempt all make to try to understand us.

Editor’s Note: Winter Olympic medalist hopeful in the men’s skeleton Matt Antoine of Prairie du Chien is in Sochi, Russia preparing for his competition on Feb. 14 and Feb. 15. Matt’s mother Mary Antoine and his brother Nick DeJulio are among a group of family and friends who made the trip to cheer Matt on. 

Mary and Nick will periodically send updates and photos to the Courier Press in order to keep all of Matt’s fans informed.

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