Behind the Scenes in Sochi: More Interesting than the Events?

hula putin

Photo Credit: Around the Rings

The Olympics are great showcases for athletic achievement, but sometimes it’s what you don’t see that’s interesting and entertaining. In the case of the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, we’ve seen a lot of that the last few weeks. Those “tales from the media corp” may sometimes seem like inside baseball to those who aren’t there or in the news business, but you can learn a lot from looking beyond the headlines.

Social media has opened the door over the last few years to the pretty and the so pretty. Once upon a time all you got from USA Today was what you saw in print. Now every reporter is tweeting, posting photos on Facebook and/or blogging.

The first images from Sochi were a flood of tweets of unfinished hotel rooms, brown water and stray dogs. Many reporters arrived a week or more in advance of the Games, so they had a lot of free time as they got acclimated and set up. Many started filing advance stories and the “not-quite-ready” city of Sochi made great fodder. Granted there was probably a little bit of bias among some reporters who were looking for the negative. That U.S. vs Russia competitiveness is alive and well.

The top story leading up to the Games was the prospect of terrorism; huge across all media. It seemed initially that host broadcaster NBC was a little slow in reporting the story, but they quickly began to provide deep coverage.

It didn’t seem hard to find the negative:

  • NBC ran a huge story before the Games about hackers who could break into your cell phone before you even got out of the airport.
  • Many media outlets had stories about stray dogs being shot or disappearing in the days before the Opening Ceremonies.
  • The ease of tweeting created a flood of photos of less than stellar hotel accommodations.  (Hint: Keep the reporters as happy as you can. Journalists who don’t get a good night’s sleep = cranky reporters who write negative stories.)

I was following three Atlanta-based journalist during the Games, all of whom offered a great look behind the scenes:

Around the Rings:  Ed and Sheila Hula have been covering the Olympics in great detail for decades (which is amazing when you consider that Sheila’s only 32 years old).  Ed got to meet Russia’s Putin (photo above) and they created their own limited-edition set of Olympic pins (photo below).

WXIA's Sochi team.

WXIA’s Sochi team.

WXIA’s Jaye Watson and her team — reporter Matt Pearl and photographer Jon Samuels — offered some great behind-the-scenes looks at Sochi. Read her blog at

My favorite Watson story was about the laundry service for the media.  Seems the laundry operation couldn’t keep anyone’s stuff straight.  Reporters seeking to claim their

sochi clothesclothing were handed a plastic bag that was likely to have pieces from a half dozen different people! Another story covered a skater from Atlanta, whose mother had received an anonymous donation that allowed her to be at the Games with her son. Unfortunately, at the last minute her son was told her wouldn’t be skating in the medal round. A real tearjerker.

Finally, her daily efforts to get the Sochi Starbucks barista to spell her name correctly had me wondering whether those Russians were just messing with her.

Nicholas Wolaver, with Putin the background.

Nicholas Wolaver, with Putin the background.

My third daily read was Nicholas Wolaver, an Atlanta PR pro who’s been blogging about and from the Olympics for many years. One of his postings talks about a little controversy around people shooting “selfies” with Putin.  Another post focused on Olympians from Wisconsin (Wolaver’s hometown) and a third looked at the first-ever womens’ ski jump competition.

atr pings

Special set of Around the Rings Olympic pins for the Sochi Olympics. Photo Courtesy Around the Rings.



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