|Photo by Getty Images. |
There was a lot of negative reporting coming out of Sochi in the days before Kevin Lowe left to join Team Canada in Russia for the Winter Olympics. Photos of construction projects left unfinished, doors that wouldn’t open once closed, dual toilet washroom stalls and toilets that won’t flush at all were some of the complaints coming from the athletes and media at the Olympics.
|Kevin Lowe snapped this photo of the Athlete's Village which is located on the Black Sea (left). Photo provided by Kevin Lowe. |
However, Lowe paints a completely different picture from the original reports as he describes his Sochi experience to be ‘wonderful’.
“Probably the biggest surprise is how well everything has gone,” the Edmonton Oilers President of Hockey Operations said. “There was so much negative reporting early on that no one knew what to expect. People need to understand that they built this mini city from scratch and it all sort of came together at the same time. There’s going to be bugs and things in terms of toilets not flushing or a shower not working, as the media is reporting.
“But at the end of the day, come on. You’re in another country, you’re experiencing great sporting events, the weather is wonderful and they’ve ironed out, at least from what I can see, those bugs. It’s come off, to this point, wonderfully. Sometimes we’re influenced by the media of course and I think a lot of people questioned if I was even going to go to Sochi but I’m awfully glad I have.”
Bugs aside, Lowe has been extremely impressed with his experience in Sochi.
“It’s been wonderful. I suspect that most of the people following the Olympics, leading up, were probably concerned. I can’t say that I wasn't. You see enough concerning or negative reporting prior to the Olympics and you start to wonder a little bit but it’s been amazing here.
|Photo by Getty Images. |
“First of all, the facilities and what they’ve built here, I don’t know if it will ever be replicated. It was a big number that they spent on this whole project, it’s in excess of 50 billion dollars. They essentially built a small city from scratch. In terms of attending the Olympics for the fans and for the athletes, it couldn’t be any better. The weather has been spectacular… it seems more like the Summer Olympics than the Winter Olympics.”
Lowe is on the ground in Sochi as a member of Hockey Canada’s Management Team. Part of his role there is to attend the hockey games of other countries to scout Canada’s opponents and opposing players. He has had the time to go to every hockey rink (they are all within walking distance from each other) and see the work Russia did to get the city ready for Olympic competition.
“All of the venues in this Olympic cluster where it’s like an Olympic Park, where they have curling and speed skating, short track and long track, they have the two arenas for hockey, they have another building for figure skating and once you enter the Olympic cluster, then you’re free to wander around.”
The most impressive venue may be the Bolshoy Ice Dome. Its roof acts as a LED scoreboard for the fans outside in the Olympic Park. It is where the men’s hockey tournament is hosted and is the place to be in Sochi.
|Bolshoy Ice Dome (right, background). Photo by Getty Images. |
“They don’t build their arenas as large as we do in North America for fan attendance but the venues are beautiful,” Lowe described. “The Bolshoy where Canada’s playing most of their games that’s all lit up with LED lighting, is as good as I’ve ever seen and a really clever idea. For the teams that are participating, the entire roof is covered with the flags of their countries in the evening. Of course, at night, you can see it for miles. Then, when one team scores the whole building turns red on the roof. Then the scores are updated on the roof. It’s hard to describe. You have to see it to believe it. I had never seen anything like it and that’s just one thing.”
The outside of the arenas itself is just as spectacular.
“All of this is happening while you’re looking at the Black Sea and when you turn around the other way, you’re looking at snow-capped mountains and the weather has been phenomenal,” Lowe said. “The pictures and the experiences of people that have traveled here… it’s a post card type experience for people.”
Lowe has been unable to visit every part of Sochi as he has been focused on hockey down in the Olympic Park, but he says he has made plans to visit the slopes and view some of the mountain sports later on in the trip.
|Fans cheer on the Russian Hockey Team in the Bolshoy Ice Dome. Photo by Getty Images. |
“Once the hockey games begin, it becomes a little more difficult (to view other sports). We’re going to watch curling on Saturday… watch the Canadian men. I’ve seen some speed skating. It’s a little easier than in past Olympics because all of the venues are so close. I’m going to take in some of the other events. I think maybe next week, we might try to get up to the mountains. It’s about an hour train ride up and from everything we’ve heard so far, it’s beautiful up there as well. We’re going to try to get that done but (I’ve just seen) speed skating so far and lots of hockey.”
Looking back on his first week in Sochi, Lowe has nothing but good memories and experiences courtesy of the Russian people and the Olympics. Of course, his experience will be a lot more satisfying if Canada can take home the gold.
“This is my fourth (Olympic) experience and I have to say, to this point, it’s been the best. It’s only been (about a week) so hopefully it carries on. I guess, at the end of the day, the experience is all about hopefully winning and we still have a while to go there. I’m very pleased with everything so far and I think the Russians are breathing a little easier in terms of the reports that are starting to come out of here and how things have gone. They’re a proud nation and they should be proud of what they’ve done and hopefully it carries on for them.”