Former Aspenite Bart Garton in Sochi
2/4/14 - I’m finally on track with my bio clock to sit down and write a bit. The jet lag actually hasn’t been that bad, as I bravely decided to not have any beers on the 9 hour plane ride to Frankfurt (though they were free, and on Lufthansa the free beer is Warsteiner). Instead, I took a few power naps and did brain puzzles instead of watching any new release movie I wanted on the plane’s individual video-on-demand system…amazing. After a 3 hour layover in Frankfurt, the next flight was really nice: half full, with extremely friendly supermodel flight attendants. I suspect that wasn’t on accident. The only way you can get to Sochi now is by charter, so someone is making sure the first impression you have of the games is a good one. Anyway, napped most of that flight too, arrived in Sochi and had a few hours of getting to our place.
Ok, so far, here’s the deal. There’s no way terrorists are going to get to us. Security is over the top. So please stop worrying.
The other deal is: They are not ready for this. The greatest thought I heard on this was a venue coordinator who quipped, “I think the Russians got the year wrong”. It’s unbelievable (and I hope you’ll receive this entire message, as we’re told they monitor all communications and edit as they deem necessary). The heart is definitely there: volunteers are bubbly and helpful, the venues have the capacity to be epic (in a few months), and the organization is fairly good. But there are some really tricky things. First, there’s a huge lack of communication. This is going to sound like an ugly American who doesn’t learn a second language, but in the case of the Olympics, it’s fairly well known that English is the official language of the Olys (no, it’s not French) and of course it’s ok if athletes and some of the venue types don’t speak it, but it’s murder trying to run a production when the officials in charge can’t communicate to us (OR the Germans or the English or the Austrians, et. al.), what they want or vice versa. Same goes with off-the-clock time. So this makes for some fairly humorous charades games and a bunch of humiliation for most of the crew (guess who’s NOT humiliated at all).
But back to the “…got the year wrong”: it is a total clusterf*ck as the Opening Ceremonies draw near. Venue crews are working 24 hours a day to get their locations looking good (they don’t, and I can’t imagine they’ll pull it off… but I probably shouldn’t underestimate the power of slave labor, Egyptian-wise). Also, the downtown area is full of shopping malls that are not even close to being open. Remember, they built this entire mountain area specifically for the Olys, and it looks like they may miss out on some serious revenue as their doors may open days after the games begin.
Some humor: For all the talk about Russians and how they drink? If you ask anyone here where to get a beer they have no answer. THERE ARE NO BARS! The explanation I heard was: since they built this city for sports, and sportsmen don’t drink, they saw no need. I tried to explain how I would understand if we were talking about the athlete’s village. But this is for the spectators, and would they be interested in telling that “not drinking” thing to the Austrians or Germans who have travelled so far to support their homeland?
Today (Wed 2/5) we got held up for a really long time in our bus due to serious security. Some of it is really dumb and redundant, but some is sort of cool. There are white camouflage tents on the road up to our venue, each with two snipers in them. We also have seen, with our huge camera zoom lenses, tracks going up to very remote mountain summits which we assume are also snipers or rocket launcher guys or something.
By the way, the events I’ll be shooting are Slopestyle (SB and Ski), Snow and Ski Cross, and Snowboard dual slalom/GS. The first event you’ll see is Slopestyle and I’m the Super Slo-Mo camera they use for replays, facing straight up the hill from the bottom. It’s fun because it’s a challenging shot, trying to find the skiers as they launch off the jump (they disappear from my view right before) then zooming in tight and keeping them in focus while they twist and turn in the air. It’s also great because I’m in the middle of the grandstands with people all around. The last training session, to which the public was invited, a Russian group adopted me and fed me beers all afternoon.
(Fri 2/7) So tonight’s the Opening Ceremonies. I hope you’ll tune in and join us for this great event. We’re off, so we have a huge group going to a bar to watch together. Then it’s non-stop work from then out: 6a to 6p every day. Fire up! I’ll check in soon.
Bart Garton has been making movies since he was a tyke growing up in Vail, Colorado. He only took a hiatus when he attended Stanford University, which didn’t have a film school in 1980. After graduating with a BS in Mechanical Engineering: Product Design, he rented his first underwater housing for a video camera and captured some amazing (for its time) footage of great white sharks in the Great Australia Bight. He was hooked. Garton is a veteran videographer of several Olympic Games.