When I covered the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002, I stayed at a Fairfield Inn 20 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City.
The toilets worked. The water from the faucets was clear. There were no stray dogs.
From what is apparently going on in Sochi, I was lucky. Apparently.
The 2014 Olympics are setting up as a potpourri of craziness. The Russians spent $51 billion to prepare for the Olympics, much of it apparently lost in fraud and shady deals with dirty characters.
American journalists are tweeting their nightmarish tails.
My Olympics experience was dull in comparison. My room was comfortable. I awoke at 6 a.m. most mornings to catch a bus to the media center, where I got on another bus to go to one of the Olympic venues. Sometimes it was just a short trip, as was the case to cover hockey, figure skating, speed skating, etc. Other times it was an hour or more into the mountains or to the other venues around Utah used for the Olympics.
I was in Salt Lake City for more than two weeks. It was my first Olympics – and my last, most likely – so I wasn’t sure what to do. I had applied for a passport months earlier and had to go through a clearing process to be given a media credential. And I protected that credential like it was gold.
Of course, the Salt Lake City Olympics were held just a few months after 9/11, so security was unbelievably tight. The lines just to get into the media center were long and and slow-moving. And it was really cold.
I bought all kinds of warm clothes before I left, so just getting dressed in the morning was a process. I was especially cognizant of keeping my feet warm. So I bought some really cushy socks and a pair of heavy-duty snow boots.
Much of the time, I was in the warm media center and inside media rooms at various competition venues. But there were a few times when I was out in the elements to cover events and I needed the protection. Mostly because I’m a wuss and hate being in cold weather. I also hate being in hot weather. Extremes just don’t suit me.
I most enjoyed watching and covering hockey and curling, actually. I’m not a big hockey guy; since I didn’t grow up with the sport it has always been difficult for me to understand the nuances. But I love Olympic hockey and it’s what I’m most looking forward to with the Sochi Olympics.
And curling is just incredible. How could anyone not love curling? It allows housewives from Hoboken a chance to become Olympians.
I’ll probably never cover another Olympics, and that’s OK. I’m glad I can say I covered one. It ranks among my most memorable experiences in the newspaper business. Memorable for many things, but especially for being cold.