Traveling must be in your blood to cover the Olympics. Since I was a kid growing up in Austin, TX, I remember seeing the koala — which is not a bear — on the Qantas Airlines commercials on TV. I would think, “I wanna go there one day!” Well, after the disappointment of not making an Olympic team as an 800-meter runner, my Olympic dream did come true in 2000 as an NBC broadcaster. My childhood dream became a reality when I made that trek around the world to Sydney as a Track & Field Analyst for the network’s coverage of the Games down under. Fast forward to 2014, and I’ve just arrived in Sochi, Russia, for my 8th Olympic assignment as the bobsled, luge and skeleton reporter.
You can feel the tension with the increase of security as these Sochi Games begin. Most of us veteran broadcasters and globe trotters will stay alert, but carry on as usual to experience another memorable Winter Olympics, which will be more than covering our events and going to the hotel. I’m going to hang out with people who want to embrace Sochi’s culture, including the food, wine and nightlife. It will be my way of exploring the host city and Russia. That’s what I’ll be writing about for the next few weeks.
My journey began in Grapevine,TX, but the NBC team had a chartered flight from Newark, NJ, direct to Sochi. And as we made our decent across the Black Sea, I snapped a few cool pictures about 30 minutes before landing.
Our arrival at the Sochi airport and trip to our final destination — the Mountain Cluster — was quick and painless, which I appreciated after close to 20 hours of traveling from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to AER (Sochi).
On our 50-minute trip to the mountains, we stopped to get our all-important credential made, and then continued up the mountain.
Although I can’t tell you which Sochi hotel I’m staying, I can tell you that the hotel is beautiful. I’m the first person to sleep in this new room and it is huge! The bed is perfect for my 6’-5” frame. Other amenities a great — couch to relax; a large desk for the hours of Olympic show prep; plenty of outlets for my electronics to help me stay connected, including my Mac Book Pro, iPad mini and iPhone 5S. And yes, I did bring 3 converters to keep me charged up.
The bathroom is spacious, with double sinks and a walk-in rain shower — I love that! My normal ritual within 5 minutes of me settling in to a hotel room is to turn on the shower to check the water pressure. All good here! Finally, I have plenty of drawer space to put my clothes.
This hotel is also equipped with a pharmacy, which is sometimes vital for a 3-week trip on the other side of the world. So this is a nice perk to help keep me healthy or to keep a cold or illness under control. No time for getting sick while covering the Olympics.
The view from my balcony is breathtaking. Behind the hotel there is a small unfinished water park,the river, train tracks, and the majestic mountain that will be my home, while covering the bobsled, luge and skeleton events.
As I was heading to the IBC (International Broadcast Center), I ran into several of the Women’s Bobsled Team, including Elana Meyers, Lauryn Williams, Aja Evans, Jazmine Fenlator and Lolo Jones (top blog photo).
Over the next few weeks, I look forward to sharing more of my fun and exciting behind-the-scenes adventure in Sochi, Russia!
By Lewis Johnson