Top of the Morning, Feb. 9, 2014

Not that we don't trust what Bob Costas has to say. But for a local read on what's going on in Sochi, we turned to 1981 Catlin High grad and longtime area musician Matt Sigmon, who is working his seventh Games as part of the Olympic Broadcasting Service. He was kind enough to provide an update as well as a selfie:

How's your hotel room?

There have been a lot of highly publicized horror stories about media accommodations here, but the truth is there are issues with housing at every Olympics to one degree or another. When I arrived here in Adler (which is where the coastal venues for the Games are actually located, not in Sochi) I had no working telephone, Internet service or television. It's not uncommon for this to be the case in Olympic media villages, so I wasn't concerned. But further investigation revealed I apparently had no hot water either, and that's sort of a deal-breaker after traveling for 20 hours. I reported the issue and reception brought a "specialist" to my room to address the matter. He came in, turned on the tap, leaned back against the wall and stood there talking with the girl from the front desk. Nearly 20 minutes later, he leans over and passes his hand through the still running water, closes the tap, walks up to me and says, "I am superman!" Turns out it just takes that long for the hot water to make it to the tap in my room. Three days later I had working Internet access, but it still takes forever for the water to heat up.

It's freezing in Champaign. What's your weather like?

Since I've been here, it's been anywhere from the upper 30s to low 70s with a fair amount of sun. I've been told it rained constantly before my arrival, so we're currently in a good streak. All the construction around the Olympic park area, including our accommodations, is new, and the heavy rains created a muddy mess with some nasty drainage problems, but it's better now than it was when I arrived on February 1. Friends have commented that they see no snow in my photos, and the reason for that is Sochi is much like Vancouver with the lower coastal areas staying quite warm while it snows like crazy up in the mountains. All of our coastal venues in Olympic park are indoor arenas, so the weather isn't an issue, but they're having plenty of snow at higher elevations.

The first story you'll tell your friends when you return to the States is ...

As mentioned, this is my 7th Olympic engagement, so the kinds of stories you tell from your first gig will be different than those from your third. But generally, the most important story that comes out of an experience like this is how people are people everywhere around the world, regardless of language and culture, and in the end you realize that our similarities are far more profound and significant than our differences. We're all in this together. Unless you're talking about cannibals of course, in which case all bets are off, but I don't often go to Canada, so I'm pretty safe. Just kidding!

Coolest cat you've met in Sochi?

Met a guy last night named Andre. He runs a small kiosk in a line of such shops down the center avenue of our accommodations complex. Me and a colleague from London stopped by Andre's place where he greeted us with a wide smile, hugs and a lot of Russian we couldn't understand. He poured us shots of vodka and carved up an apple on the spot. A young woman named Anna from the next shop over was kind enough to translate for us and it turns out Andre was saying something similar to my response above. "People are people, I'm your friend and we shouldn't fear each other. Welcome to Russia!" Then he poured us another drink and tried to get us to buy gifts for friends!

Russians see an American flag and think ...

To answer this question I asked two of our young Russian interns what's the first thing they think of when they see an American flag:

Alina Margolina, age 21: "The night sky, just because of the stars!"

Maxim Grachev, age 19: "I think about democracy and freedom."

Finally, use your songwriter background to tell me what group should have performed at the Opening Ceremonies?

My take is that Olympic Opening Ceremonies are all too similar and a little repetitive, so I'd like to see a full orchestral rendition of John Cage's silent composition, 4'33". Let's mix it up a little, people, give 'em something to talk about!

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