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Archive for March, 2013

Sochi’s first big biathlon races are about to start. World Cup 8 is a test event for next year’s Olympics and is an opportunity for all the biathletes and team staff to see the venue. So far, I am having a great time.

The Travel
The biathlon circus traveled to Sochi on direct charter flights from Oslo. An additional cargo plane carried ski equipment and extra luggage. Our journey started out surprising smooth- we arrived in Sochi on time and passed through customs quickly. However, next we sat in coach buses in the airport parking lot for three hours until every athlete’s rifle cleared customs. Rumor has it the airport staff weren’t prepared for us because they didn’t know that biathlon involved firearms. The biathlon venue and village are about an hour’s drive from Sochi uphill and into the mountains. Even through it was 1 o’clock in the morning, we saw plenty of construction crews hard at work to complete the highway. We rode a gondola for the final leg of the journey with all our luggage to the top of a mountain.

20130306-192142.jpgLoading skis and wax equipment onto cargo trucks at the Holmenkollen stadium in Olso. I am going to count all that lifting as my strength workout for the week.

20130305-175535.jpg More waiting around at the base of the gondola, this time to get our accreditation. The village and venue are full of checkpoints and we can’t go anywhere without credentials.

20130306-111345.jpgView from the top of the gondola.

The Village
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There will be several Olympic Villages for Sochi. The biathlete and cross country skier village is called the “Endurance Village.” It sits on top of a mountain, right next to our race venues. The “cottages” are very spacious and comfortable and surrounded by beautiful mountains.

20130306-111036.jpgThe village, like the highway, is not yet finished but there hundreds of construction workers and many cranes.

The Venue
20130306-110653.jpgA view of the stadium (and the only flat part of the entire course.) Range is below me to the left. The cables overhead belong to another gondola- this one is for spectators. It travels directly above the shooting range and will have to shut down on race day once zeroing begins. Apparently, they are going to have to limit the number of spectators next year due to the logistic of getting people up the mountain and lack of space. Supposedly there is capacity for 5,000 in the stadium, which would be less than 1/4 of the crowds we have seen at World Championships the last couple years.

20130306-111431.jpgProbably the biggest biathlon stadium building in the world.

20130305-175436.jpgOur rifles were delivered en masse to the venue directly from the airport. We had to unpack and assemble them there. In Russia, unlike most other countries we visit, our rifles and ammo are secured in lockers up at the venue. We have to sign them out every day before training and return them immediately afterwards.

20130306-110834.jpgThe shooting range. I suspect they will make the backdrop look prettier for next year.

20130306-110940.jpgRight now, there are metal rods sticking out of the concrete- like canons poking out of a pirate ship.

20130306-111245.jpgI’ve seen double seater outhouses before, but never expected to see anything like that at an Olympic venue… They are also the only athlete toilets I have found so far at the venue.

20130306-121536.jpg Leif took this picture and it was so great I had to steal it. A sampling of the team food at the venue. Snickers buffet anyone? Don’t worry, there were a few other options too. Photo: Leif Nordgren

20130306-111528.jpg Lots of construction vehicles all over the place.

20130306-111605.jpgMy favorite part about Sochi so far is the venue staff and volunteers. They have been very friendly and keen on helping.

20130306-192252.jpgThere are hundreds of them and they can be easily identified by their blues coats. Most of the volunteers are young and speak good English. One of the guys I talked to, Alex, comes from the Ural Mountains. He arrived a couple days ago and is helping here for a few weeks. He hopes he can come back next year to help too.

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