We're less than a year away from the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, and Canada's Chef de Mission for the team, Steve Podborski, recently completed a tour of the Games' venues and facilities.
While there are some issues with snow and cost overruns (see sidebar: Sochi Test Events), Podborski was generally impressed by what he saw — the quality of the venues and the infrastructure for the ski resort, a lot of which had to be built from scratch. There's never been a Games this expensive, $51 billion so far, where virtually every building, venue and piece of infrastructure had to be constructed.
Podborksi returned home to Canada on Feb. 10, and Pique caught up with the jet-lagged Chef on Monday.
Pique: How did everything look? You hear a lot about the snow there this winter, but is everything in place? Are things still being built?
Podborski: You have to remember that my lens on Sochi is as the leader of the Olympic team so I was really more focused on venues and how things are going to work for our guys, the men and women on the team.
I can say that the sport venues are incredibly compact. For example, the Olympic ice rinks are only 50 to 100 metres apart from each other in a great big semi-circle of a building, and the plaza for the opening ceremonies dominates the south end of the plaza. And just 50 kilometres away is all of the mountain stuff. So everything is very close together compared to Vancouver, and all the venues are pretty much done. For us, it's a piece of cake.
Pique: Did you get a chance to look at the athletes' villages and look at things like food?
Podborski: There are really three villages, one for endurance athletes, the mountain village and the coastal village. They are all built and they have dining halls where different food from the various continents is going to be served every day. All of it's very, very nice. I also got a chance to go out with the skeleton team for dinner and we went to a typical Russian restaurant to see how locals eat. It's very hearty fare, meats and rice and salads and cheeses. Very Russian.
Pique: What were they saying about the snow? Are people concerned or is this just a bad year?
Podborski: I think the organizers are concerned, but they're not overly concerned or freaking out or anything. They had this idea that they'd store snow over the summer and re-use it next winter, which they've done for this year, but it looks like they'll have to store more next year in case it's warm. It was close to record highs there for this time of year.