Lewis Johnson with the US Women’s Bobsled Team: (l-r) Elana Meyers, Lauryn Williams, Aja Evans, Jazmine Fenlator and Lolo Jones (center). (Photo Courtesy of Lewis Johnson)
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.
The Seattle Seahawks, Punxsutawney Phil and more came out to play in this week in photos. While the Seahawks dominated the big game, all eyes are on the Olympic Games thanks to some bad press. Let’s hope things look up for Sochi after today’s opening ceremony.
Journalists were the first to arrive — and describe some hilarious and gross hotel experiences. WashPost rounded up their tweets, our personal favorite being from @StaceyStClair about the shoddy plumbing, “Also on the bright side: I just washed my face with Evian, like I’m a Kardashian or something.”
Possibly the most documented of all the @SochiProblems has been it’s interesting bathrooms, which are both lacking privacy and displaying confusing rules. Does that sign say don’t go fishing in the toilet? Your guess is as good as ours, Buzzfeed.
More alarming, Dateline reports that Sochi visitors face an internet minefield, often being hacked within minutes. Furthermore, the US State Department has told Americans coming to Sochi that they should have no expectation of privacy, even in their hotel rooms.
On a lighter note, CNN has 9 ways Sochi Surprises — including dacha, chacha and a gay bar. While you’re at it, check out our list of Sochi’s surprising sights.
Last but not least, today’s Google Doodle is garnering attention for its support of LGBT olympians, pointing to a section of the Olympic Charter that defends all athletes. The CSMonitor has more.
More Olympics Coverage:
Sochi 2014 Trip Planner
Where to Stay in Sochi
The Olympics: A Look Ahead
The Amazon (Photo Courtesy of Embratur)
If there is something that should be well-known about Brazil, it is that ecotourism is taken just as seriously as soccer. Just ask Fuleco, the 2014 FIFA World Cup mascot whose name originates from “ful” for futbol and “eco” for ecology. This personable armadillo is native to Brazil, and symbolizes the importance of preserving the ecosystem, as well as a passion for soccer that is present in Brazil. The city of Manaus is a perfect marriage of the 2: the practice of street soccer and efforts to preserve the Amazon rainforest.
Manaus, the City of the Amazonas
In the 19th century, Manaus was known as the “Heart of the Amazon and City of the Forest,” when the natural resources of the Amazon rainforest were used in creating rubber as an international export. The city instantly began to flourish, and with wealth exponentially growing, extravagant buildings were being constructed like the Amazon Theater (Teatro Amazonas). For a while, there was a strong European presence in the tropics, but the city’s economic success suffered when the Asian market discovered a way to create artificial rubber. Since then, Manaus has made a comeback. Locals have continued to work hard to offer excellent tourism services and educational programs to travelers interested in exploring the Amazon rainforest.
Photography By Fernando Mafra, Flickr
This weekend, MetLife Stadium, located a short distance from New York City, will host the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos in one of the largest sporting events of the year – Super Bowl XLVIII.
Football fanatics and tourists alike will flock to NYC, and even if you’re not one of the lucky fans going to the game, the city is a great place to get your fix of tailgating food favorites – from hot dogs and burgers to pizza and sandwiches, NYC is chock-full of places to eat the day of the big game. To help you choose, we’ve picked out a few of NYC’s best eateries, all of which will be featured in our Food Paradise episodes scheduled to air on Sunday: READ MORE
With 10 days to go until the Sochi Winter Olympics, we’re reminded that the Olympics represent an undisputed symbol of peak athleticism, entertainment and global cooperation. Also undisputed, however, is that the Olympics are consistently mired in controversy. The level of controversy varies from game to game. It can involve anything from performance-enhancing drugs and corrupt judges to political boycotts and most terrifyingly, assassinations.
The Sochi Winter Olympics are no exception to either end of the spectrum. There have been stories of self-sacrifice and excruciating decisions (Lindsey Vonn’s injury, for one) and ultimately triumph. There have been reports of heightened security and terrorism alerts, of wasted funds and a corrupt political environment.
It would be irresponsible to ignore the controversial political climate of the Sochi Games as it involves the world’s safety. However we must remain hopeful and optimistic that these 16 days will inspire the world.
In the spirit of the Olympic Games, here are some fun and hopefully inspirational facts:
Ralph Lauren once again designed the USA Olympic team uniforms. All of the uniforms were made exclusively in the USA, specifically in Oregon (yarn), Pennsylvania (spinning), North Carolina (material prep) and Los Angeles (assembly line).
We all know that the fourth-place finisher does not get a medal, but he/she does not go home empty-handed. The first eight athletes in each event receive a diploma from the IOC (International Olympics Committee).
Photography by Paul Morrison
Does the approaching Winter Olympics have you dreaming of channeling your inner Olympian? With the State Department issuing a travel advisory last week cautioning Americans about terrorist attacks at the Winter Games, whether or not the warning will deter attendance next month remains to be seen. Regardless, if you can’t make it to Sochi, Russia to watch the pros at the 2014 Olympics, you can take an opportunity to ski with one a bit closer to home. Host of the last Winter Olympics, Whistler, British Columbia, is rolling out their Ski With an Olympian program for the second year in a row. Sign up and you’ll get a full day of skiing or snowboarding for groups of up to 5 people with an Olympic legacy as your personal guide.
How cool is it to get access to a pro like Rob Royd – the 3-time Olympian, 6-time World Championship athlete, and head coach for the Canadian Women’s National Ski Team — to ask him for pointers on upping your all-mountain skills? Or to hear Olympic insider stories over lunch with half-pipe and freestyle snowboarders such as Crispin Lipscomb or Tara Teigenm? Hop on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, which connects Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, and you’ll have plenty of time to listen to those Olympic stories while taking in the view. (It’s not only the highest lift in the world, but also the longest unsupported lift span on the planet!)
Ponta Negra Beach (Photo Courtesy of Embratur)
The city of Natal is “painted” with the same organic colors proudly displayed on the Brazilian flag: blue skies, golden-yellow sand dunes and green palm trees. During the FIFA final draw, it was announced that the USA team would be playing against Ghana in the Arena das Dunas for their first game on June 16, 2014. Even though the USA is in Group G — which is considered one of the hardest group’s in the 2014 World Cup — fans really hit the jackpot with having Natal as the perfect host city to cheer on the US team.
Championship weekend is finally here, and the NFL’s magnifying glass is situated squarely on 2 very different cities: Denver, CO, and Seattle, WA.
In the first epic showdown of the weekend, 2 legends at the quarterback position, Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, go head-to-head in the playoffs for the 4th time in their careers. And with Manning no longer a Colt, the rivalry remains, but the location has changed. For those attending Sunday’s game, there are a plethora of activities, hotels and restaurants to enjoy in the Mile High City. READ MORE
Sundance Film Festival
It’s a big year for Sundance Film Festival as it celebrates its 30th birthday in Park City, UT, this week. For the last 3 decades, the next big moviemakers, critics, celebrities and film buffs have attended this annual event every January to be wowed by the best of independent films from all over the world.
The largest independent film festival in the US, Sundance was launched in 1978 with the help of Robert Redford’s company, Sterling Van Wagenen. Over the last 30 years, Redford has played an integral part in building the festival’s momentum and his mark is seen all over town, from his famed Sundance Resort, 5,000 acres on the slopes of Mount Timpanogos in Utah’s Wasatch Range to Zoom, his cozy restaurant located on Park City’s Main Street.
With temperatures dropping, don’t let winter doldrums set in. Bundle up and embrace the cold (albeit the bone-chilling, artic-blasting cold of recent days) with some of our favorite things to do in winter.
1. Sleep in an ice hotel.
If you aren’t afraid of a little cold or a bed made out of ice, spend an unforgettable night in an ice hotel. Chill out in a luxury igloo full of hard-carved ice sculptures and cozy fur hides to keep you warm at night.
2. Toast with a decadent drink.
The ideal cure for a winter chill? A cocktail to warm you up. Toast to shorter days with these 10 cold-weather cocktails, from a traditional hot toddy to an innovative dry-ice-infused concoction.
3. Take an icy plunge.
What better way to plunge into 2014 than with an icy dip! There are still New Year dips taking place throughout January, or head to Finland where ice swimming is a popular custom all winter long.