Sochi(t) to me


I remember the Jamaican bobsledders in the movie Cool Runnings of 1993. I was in Jamaica in ’79 so I can put the incongruity of the sport in context. The only frozen thing in Kingston, or up the Blue Mountains, is the ice that cools the beer. I lived in the prairies of Saskatchewan earlier so I have a feel for the Canadian cold. The four-person bobsledders in the movie actually competed in Calgary. The utterly ridiculous premise of the movie plot is easily dismissed as the product of overly adventurous imagination, save that the movie was based on actual facts.

Now, were one to imagine that with the increasing number of NMI immigrants to Northern Nevada, Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and the Rockies, one of our Chamorro kids puts on skis and comes down the slopes of Mt. Rainier with flair, liking the experience so much that s/he starts practicing to do it again, this time in competition with others. That, or start it somewhere in the waters around the Commonwealth where water skis are now increasingly getting popular, so, to get used to the body equilibrium and balancing act on skis is not far away from what is already accessible on island.

Is this farfetched? Well, at the end of this week until the 23rd of February, the world’s press will Sochi(t) to you! It is called the Winter Olympics, which is a quadrennial happening in a place around the world that can guarantee ice surface indoors, and snow surface outdoors. This year, it is in the Olympic Park constructed in the Imertisky Valley on the coast of the Black Sea, with Fisht Olympic Stadium and the indoor venues for the Games within walking distance. The opening and closing ceremonies are scheduled at the Park.

The snow-covered open grounds will be at Krasnaya Polyana on the western flank of the Caucasus, and instead of me describing the place for you, Google a map of Sochi and you will find names and pictures of locations you will most likely hear on radio, see on TV, or read about in the papers.

For the geography-challenged, look up Turkey (that’s left of Iraq and right of Greece) in a map. If you find it, the body of water north of it is the Black Sea. Now you are in the neighborhood. If you put your finger in the middle of the Black Sea, your left should have words like Romania and Bulgaria. Straight up north is Crimea of the Ukraine and south is Turkey. Still in the middle of the Black Sea, look to your right and the city of Sochi of Russia sits just north of Georgia, recognizable by the lateral spread of the Caucasus. Sochi sits along the Black Sea 4 km from the border of Georgia on the western end of the Caucasus Range.

In case you are not familiar with Winter Olympics events, think skating and skiing. On ice indoors, it’s skating (figure and speed), and if you are chasing a black puck, it is hockey; if you are sliding a stone on the ice to a target with four concentric circles, that’s curling (not your hair, dear; leave the hot irons alone).

On snow outdoors, it’s skiing: the cross-country, freestyle, jumping, and downhill (Alpine). Biathlon in winter Olympics is cross-country and rifle shooting. Nordic is ski jumping and cross-country. Snowboarding is down slope on white snow while standing on a board attach to the rider’s feet. Skeleton is sled-riding down a slope face down, and Luge is sled-riding down a slope face up, or in a supine position. Bobsleigh or bobsled is four- or two-person Cool Runnings.

Now, to Sochi, the city in Krasnador Krai of Russia. In the shadows of the Caucasus, mountain altar of whitey’s god (don’t mean that disparagingly as they were actually called “white gods”) of Aia, the traffic between ancient Greece and Caucasus written up in Homer’s Illiad and the Odyssey, we are in divinely appointed and anointed environment. Now, for its casinos, Sochi is known as the high end Riviera of Russia. The western penchant for the gods of Olympus should trigger healthy curiosity of its spring wells. Sochi a few km to Georgia’s (Abkazia in the western flank of Caucasia) border can provide that.

More down to earth, Vladimir Putin, the ex-KGB tough guy who likes to show an image of physical fitness, pegged his reputation on Sochi’s hosting of the Winter Olympics. Putin to the U.S. is the good guy that got Assad of Syria to dismantle his chemical weapons of mass destruction, and the bad guy who provided asylum for Snowden of the NSA spying scandal. He was recently photographed cuddling a cub Persian leopard, Sochi’s chosen mascot, which constituted to the Western press a view of Putin’s softer nature. Whoa! Cuddling a leopard a gentle virtue?

Like all Olympic efforts (pun intended), construction always go above budget, six times in Sochi’s case, which many in Russia think should have gone into social programs, though they are not able to say so as loudly as Sao Paulo is doing with regards to their Olympic efforts for their FIFA and summer Olympics. But Putin will not be denied his project, and he shall be excused warmly if this next three weeks, while NMI’s young balances on their skates and skis, he manages to Sochi(t) to the world!

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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