Sochi 2014: Outside the Ice Cube

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Extended curling family tales

by Mike McEwen

The cute couple, oot and aboot

The cute couple, oot and aboot

SOCHI, RUSSIA – Curling takes up a big part of the Olympics. In fact, it's a competition that spans 12 days... starting three days after opening ceremonies and ending only two days before the closing! That means a lot of our time is spent inside the Olympic Park, Canada Olympic House and consumed along the transportation routes within the Adler and Sochi areas. Unless you like Khosta (north along the coast from Adler), where taking the wrong bus home will take you there.

Sorry to those who followed my lead that night... oops!

However, we've actually been able to experience a heck of a lot outside of the Ice Cube (curling venue) and a significant portion, I'm delighted to say, with Team Jennifer Jones. Speaking of ice cubes, it's a make-your-own-ice kind of world here (don't worry, we're surviving)!

I initially thought the Team Canada curling ladies could be on "lockdown" so I'm glad we get to do some of this stuff together. Canada Olympic House is a great place to hang out with the added bonus of a dedicated concierge for purchasing tickets – because beer, food, and snacks are not enough! As well, lucky family and friends sometimes snag last minute freebie event tickets should you be lounging around at the right times!

Zzzzzz. sort of

Zzzzzz... sort of

Quality lounging and napping? See the Team Jacobs girls in the photo at left (I warned 'em this was coming!)...

We've managed to hit up a few hockey games, some of us taking in all three of the Canadian men's hockey round-robin games. The girls joined us for the Canada vs Finland game, and because of them I'm sure the cameras found us in the crowd!

Despite how good our seats were, don't you think Anil Mungal, curling's photog superstar, has the best seat? (third pic).

Last night, Trevor Wall and I escaped quickly after the awkward Canada/Korea curling handshakes. And I say awkward because there was a significant delay before shaking, when Korea was down five with one end to go and looked to be playing until they were run out of rocks! I actually think they might of been unsure whether they could concede early or not. Gotta love curling for being able to say "I'm beat" and ready to throw in the towel!

So, Trevor and I caught the last two periods of the women's hockey semifinals, Canada vs. Switzerland. How good was the Swiss goalie to keep that one close (3-1)... impressive! Thanks also to the friendly Americans who stopped by COH to see if anyone would like to accompany them that night!

How'd he get that spot?! – Ed.

(How'd he get that spot?! – Ed.)

On one of the many warm sunny days we've had here in Sochi, we hopped on the train up to the mountains. On the one hour smooth ride up you get an appreciation for the amount of money sunk into roadworkand other infrastructure... a highway up to the mountain cluster, pretty much all bridged – suspended – in the air. Seriously. There's eight of your $52 billion right there!

Met up with Team Jones, did a quick tour of the Rosa Khutor mountain village, and stopped in at a smaller version of COH for the mountain cluster. Two long streets of shops, restaurants, hotels, and cafes line the Mzymta River. Pretty unbelievable what they've built up here... now they just need the snow! So, to get to some of that white stuff, we needed to climb higher...

We hopped on a gondola ride up the mountain and then had a decent-sized hike to the Extreme Park. Not really an easy jaunt! A lot of stairs, slush, and loose rock paths and that meant another day of sore calves and feet the following day. The husbands (myself, Brent, Devlin and Trevor) stayed for many hours and caught most of the snowboard half-pipe action. Except for Brent... we'll go with "he was cold" or something and left early... haha!

I take lots of front end pics, eh?

I take lots of front end pics, eh?

Next up for us "off" the curling beat? Well, it was tiebreaker day and none to speak of in the women's bracket. Somewhat surprising that 5-4 got you straight into the playoffs, don't you think?

Haven't yet seen the shot GBR's David Murdoch made to beat The Pants in the sole men's tiebreaker, but I hear it was a beauty (and here you go – Ed.)

Three days of exciting curling playoff action is coming up, along with a few tickets to the last day of short-track speed skating.

Today, all of the Team Canada curling supporters have a chill day off. Many will probably be walking the Adler boardwalk, stop for a scenic bevy along the Black Sea (if you're lucky, see some dolphins swimming... or unlucky and catch a big man in a little suit taking a cold dip) and get some souvenir shopping done. Among other things.

Also, I simply cannot forget tonight's birthday dinner for my mother-in-law, Jane Askin... Happy Birthday!!!

[Photos by Mike McEwen – click on images to increase size]