Covering the Olympics really is an amazing race

Covering the Olympics really is an amazing race
A crane stands outside the Gorki Grand, a hotel in Sochi that didn't open on schedule. (Luca Bruno / Associated Press)

SOCHI, Russia -- The hardest part about covering the Winter Olympics, by far, is getting here and staying healthy.

The coverage breakdown is 95% logistics and 5% throat lozenges.


Writing about Bode Miller, comparatively, is a breeze.

Every easy time-zone venture (Salt Lake, Vancouver) is offset by a Lillehammer, Nagano, Turin or, now, Sochi.

I have always approached the Winter Olympics with the mentality that I am a contestant on "The Amazing Race" without any chance of winning a million dollars at the end.

You stand no chance if you can't embrace the adventure. You cannot expect express turn-down service and chocolate on your hotel pillow.

The Russians don't care if you are Marriott Platinum.

Shoot, we didn't even have a hotel when we got to Sochi. Ah, but that's all part of the adventure.

After a 13-hour flight from LAX to Moscow and another two hours from Moscow to Sochi, those of us in the "mountain cluster" found out our hotel, the Gorki Grand, wasn't finished yet.

That's right, "Pardon our Putin Dust."

Colleague Lisa Dillman and I were told we'd be put up in a temporary hotel, the Panorama -- IF we could find it.

It was already after midnight when we arrived at the Sochi airport and we rolled our rubles and took a bus straight to the top of old Smoky Smirnoff.

More than an hour later, we were on a ski-lift gondola, in the pitch dark, with 150 pounds of luggage, headed straight up the side of a mountain.

All you can do in this situation is laugh -- and we did.

We got off at the top and found what looked to be a brand-new ghost town filled with a few stray dogs and Russians, smoking cigarettes and talking on cellphones.

The Gorki Grand, indeed, was not finished. We lugged our luggage around in the dark for a half-hour. There was no signage on the buildings and U2 would have been interested to know the streets had no names.


A nice Russian man, out of nowhere, asked if we needed help. He led us down a flight of stairs to the entrance of what was, indeed, the Panorama.

The hotel had literally been open for hours -- they were still hanging a flat-screen in the bar area -- but a warm bed never felt so good.

The Gorki Grand is supposed to be opening in a day or two. We'll see about that.

The race now is to see if the hotel opens its gates before the gates open in Sunday's first alpine event, the men's downhill.

In the meantime, the motto is "survive, advance and hope hot water spits out of the shower nozzle." I'm downing vitamin C like there's no tomorrow and praying I won't get sick.

And don't even think about cracking your molar on the morning granola.

I'm trying to ignore the tickle in my throat that’s trying to become a cough. Oh wait, it's a cough.

Thank goodness for the Chinese green tea in one of the media hotels that is finished.