Hucked off when pinned down by Comic Book Guy

SOCHI SKETCH: The Games are well underway and Great Britain has its first ever medal won on snow. PHILIP BARKER keeps us up to date with what’s happening behind the TV cameras and inside the MPC and the somewhat cramped press tribunes

Jenny Jones on her way to the bronze medal in Sochi on Sunday
Jenny Jones on her way to the bronze medal in Sochi on Sunday

Jenny Jones’ medal in the slopestyle has got the British media contingent buzzing. Most were out on the mountains, a small group watched from the Main Press Centre and it all put the British Olympic Association’s “managing victory” plan to the test.

The press was waiting for Jones at the the Main Press Centre for a press conference around 9.30pm on Sunday, where non-right-holders also got their interviews with the woman of the moment. She gave good value to all.

Sochi is four hours ahead of London so the time difference works in our favour.

Talking of timing, this was the earliest British medal to arrive at any Winter Games, going all the way back to Chamonix. Day Two of the Games, just as with London in 2012.

VLADIMIR PUTIN WAS beaming as Russia won gold in the team figure skating, one of the new events here. Does he sit down with the Olympic computer every morning working out where the Russian golds are most likely to happen? It made great pictures for Russian TV, who like the rest of the world are taking the independent feed generated by the Olympic Broadcasting Service.

If you watched that magnificent Opening Ceremony, you may recall the “unfortunate” moment when the fifth Olympic ring did not open. Except on Russian TV, all the rings did open, because they rolled in pictures from the rehearsal, when it had all worked perfectly. It has got to be the ultimate “Here’s one we made earlier” moment. Valerie Singleton would have been so proud of them.

Sochi Olympic rings
As not seen on Russian TV: the moment witnessed by audiences around the world as the fifth Olympic ring failed to open during Friday’s Opening Ceremony was miraculously missing from the version broadcast to the Sochi Games’s doemstic audience

ACCOMMODATION FOR JOURNALISTS is still a problem for some. “Whatever you have heard is true,” said one American journalist who complained of the water pipes not being connected to showers at his hotel. After money changed hands, the problem was rectified, or so he said.

Our own media report that the press areas at some venues is very small. The curling press box is a bit of a squeeze and the mixed zone at figure skating is extremely tight fit. Strange, since it is traditionally an event which has been designated high demand, and with Russian skaters often expected to be among the medals, you might have expected the organisers to anticipate the need for media space.

Making a right h*** up of things

The trouble with covering all these often new, rarely broadcast sports from the extreme end of the winter spectrum is the lack of familiarity with some of the terminology used. The BBC has already had to issue an apology in Britain for broadcasting what it thought was a four-letter expletive, but which turns out to be common, but polite, parlance in snowboarding.

Asked one of those typically, post-event banal questions about how he’d approached his runs, Billy Morgan declared live on air, “I just thought ‘huck it’.”

Panic ensued among the producers, who either weren’t quite sure of what Morgan had said, or were not familiar – as, of course, the whole press pack is – that “huck it” is a snowboarding term for a bold performance.

The Beeb nonetheless apologised to viewers and cut away from the interview.

A LANGUAGE BARRIER of a more conventional kind is still holding good at the concession stores in the MPC. After London’s wonderful wraparound covers from The Times, Telegraph and Guardian and all manner of souvenir editions from the red tops, I went in search of their equivalent here. The answer a curt: “Niet!”

A handy media bus shuttles between venues on the Olympic Park. The whole thing is walkable, but often the bus drops you right at the door.

Transport to the mountain cluster seems to be working. I travelled along the much-vaunted super highway the other day. The train back was equally fast from a gleaming new station, but the new town that has sprung up there does have a bit of the Potemkin feel about it.

There’s a right old battle of the bands going each day in the Olympic Park. Break dancers and music for “da yoof” on one side, while by the impressive-looking cauldron is a daily fountain show in time to music from Tchaikovsky, Khachaturian and other classical composers. Know which I prefer, though it’s a bit surreal watching the flame to the music of The Onedin Line. And you need to watch your positioning for the performance, too: when the routine finished, those standing too close got splashed by the fountains.

Pinned down: badge collectors in Sochi have an uncanny resemblance to Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons
Pinned down: badge collectors in Sochi?

THOSE SOCHI YOUNGSTERS who do speak English are always keen to talk and discuss things. Worth remembering that in 1980, all the kids were sent away from Moscow to Pioneer Camps to avoid contact with the “decadent west”.

Most popular souvenir among the media so far seems to be the Sochi Gloves. Each finger is the colour of one of the five Olympic rings.

As in London you have to run the gauntlet of the pin collectors. Think Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons and you get an idea of the kind of individuals involved.


Mon Mar 24: SJA British Sports Journalism Awards, Grand Connaught Rooms, London
Mon Apr 14: SJA Spring Golf Day: Croham Hurst GC, Surrey. Booking details to be announced