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McCollum's Column: Some icy thoughts about another Winter Olympics

Posted: February 4, 2014 - 1:47pm

As I watched the ice accumulate on a frosty morning Tuesday, there were a series of jolts to the memory.

My thoughts turned to another frosty morning and afternoon at the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City. I was there as part of the Morris Communications Corporation team (our parent company) to cover those games.

The first event at those Olympics was ski jumping at a venue in nearby Park City, an eclectic and delightful community that eliminates a lot of stereotypes about Utah.

It was my first — and worst — encounter with wintry elements that can be both a blessing and a curse at the Winter Games. Because of an ice storm, the event was postponed, leaving hardy fans the challenge of exiting the stadium while avoiding being the subject of comical, impromptu and very amateurish ice dancing videos on the slippery surfaces.

I asked several spectators about their reaction to showing up for a Winter Olympics event that was called off because of winter stuff. Many said they were from northern climates and were used to it. All said they were happy to be there and be part of the international experience.

A dozen years later, as the Winter Olympics near, I have varied flashbacks of those three weeks, which formed one of the greatest experiences of my life:

• The almost obligatory figure-skating controversy.

• Learning how to watch luge (better on TV. The luger shoots past you in a blur along the railing at the track).

• A German reporter and an Austrian reporter getting into a confrontation over the remote control in a press room or whether to watch the feed from biathlon or cross country skiing.

• The security (this was the first major world event since 9-11) and it was extremely tight — a forerunner to the modern culture. Early on, I remember taking a wrong turn on the way to a venue and seeing a well-arm solider approach and politely tell me to go no farther. No argument.

• How friendly everyone in Salt Lake was, including the large numbers of young military members, many of whom would later serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

• The challenge of being in security behind a huge camera with a lens as long as I am tall.

• The free massages in the media center (you needed them after a long day).

• Experiencing the personality of snow-boarders, a new event at the time but one that has changed changed the dynamic of the Winter Games.

• The grandeur of seeing a moose on a mountainside.

• Wondering how much folks had been drinking when they created curling.

All kinds of things.

I’m intrigued by the Winter Games that are about to begin in Sochi, Russia, which is actually better known as a summer beach resort on the Black Sea.

I’m concerned about security. It’s a giant stage and prime location for acts of all kinds of whackos with all kinds of agendas.

Every time, the Winter Olympics, which feature competitions foreign to many of us captivate us with the stories and personalties for about three weeks. I’m already predicting that team figure skating, which makes its Olympic debut Thursday (sort of team gymnastics on ice) will be a hit.

At the Log Cabin, we’re limited in the amount of space we can devote to the Games, but that doesn’t mean we will ignore something that will entice many in our audience.

In Friday’s editions, there will be a special page devoted to the Winter Olympics with helpful information.

Especially drawing on some of my Olympic experience, I write a column or two and will be giving some observations in blogs @thecabin.net and on Twitter @dmaclcd or @lcdonline.

As I watch the icicles accumulate on trees and power lines, I have on a fleece with the Salt Lake 2002 logo.

Two reasons, not necessarily in order: Memories and warmth.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or david.mccollum@thecabin.net or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)

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