Olympics / Sports

USA's Eduardo Alvariz (256) and Canada's Charles Jamelin (205) collide and fall during the Men's 1000 meter quarterfinal race at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Saturday, February 15, 2014. (Harry E. Walker/MCT)

Commentary: Checking the check list at Winter Olympics

SOCHI, Russia -- Yo, Comcast: How could you do it to a Philly guy?

It was bad enough when you allowed NBC to dress Al Roker in a skintight skeleton outfit. I, unlike Roker's sled, could bear that atrocity.

But when your little TV network opened a secret, NBC-only Starbucks right under the nose of this caramel flan latte-deprived journalist, you went too far.

Surely, this is one of the great treacheries in Olympic history.

According to my Starbucks-locator app, the chain's closest location is supposed to be 350 miles away in Rostov-on-Don, Russia.

Desperate for a venti verona or pike place as I may be, I couldn't in good conscience expense a 700-mile taxi trip. So instead, to access the caffeine that makes Sochi bearable, I've been forced to settle for -- parents, you may want to cover your children's eyes here -- McCafe.

In case you La Colombe-sipping execs in Comcast Tower aren't familiar with the brand, McCafe is to good coffee what Brian Roberts is to hipness.

Yet, since McDonald's is an official Olympic sponsor, I never questioned its coffee monopoly -- and even if I had, none of the Russian kids behind the counter would have understood me.

So I swallowed my bitter pill daily and took comfort in knowing that the rest of the world's sports journalists were being similarly deprived.

But I kept hearing disturbing whispers that Starbucks cups had been sighted in and around the Main Media Center.

Now comes a Wall Street Journal story confirming my worst fears: There's a Starbucks in our building, and NBC won't share.

Network officials, apparently with your corporate imprimatur, imported Starbucks baristas from all over Russia and stuck them in an off-limits corner of our joint work space. Throughout these Sochi Games, they've been dispensing free coffee, but only to NBC's 2,500 on-site employees.

At long last, Comcast, have you no sense of decency?

Would it kill you to order NBC to spread some joe among us average Joes? Couldn't they open their sanctum sanctorum to us for a day, an hour, five minutes?

In the meantime, shouldn't some draconian punishment be meted out to the NBC executive responsible for this outrage?

Perhaps he could be exiled from Sochi. (Oh wait, I said "punishment, didn't I?) Perhaps his Olympic pins could be confiscated. Or maybe he could be made to spend a weekend with David Cohen.

Anyway, if you're not too busy creating a cable monopoly, could you dispatch an envoy from Philadelphia to intervene here in my behalf?

If so, have him stop by my residence at 43 Gulag Plaza.

I'll be there sometime between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Updated residence report

Breakfast: inedible.

TV: inaudible.

Water: indescribable.

Elevator: incapacitated.

Outdoor bar noise: incessant.

Cost: inflated.

Driving crazy

No wonder the Soviet Union was such a tenacious Cold War opponent.

The concept of yielding apparently does not exist in Russia, not on its roads and not on its sidewalks.

Bus and taxi drivers here play chicken with fellow motorists. Approaching intersections, they'll turn in front of oncoming traffic -- almost always without signaling -- daring drivers either to stop suddenly or collide with a three-ton vehicle.

And two-way traffic means nothing. If they want to pass a slow-moving vehicle, they simply go over the solid line, scattering oncoming traffic.

The same is true for local pedestrians. Don't expect the person coming toward you in a narrow hallway or entering a doorway alongside you to step aside.

Russian birchers

Political conservatives, take note. It's OK to be a tree hugger in Russia.

An article on an Olympic website suggested that if visiting sportswriters saw a Russian in the woods hugging a birch tree, they should not be alarmed.

The birch, celebrated in Russian art, music, and literature, is believed to possess restorative powers and the ability to ward off evil powers and grant wishes. Citizens here frequently commune with them.

That still doesn't explain what a sportswriter would be doing in the Russian woods.

Breathless communiques

There are giant TVs here devoted to nothing but the Olympic athletes' social-media postings.

Let's just say Reuters has nothing to worry about.

Most of the stirring messages are along the lines of "Opening ceremonies were awesome. Saw lots of people and flags. Fire too. OMG. #Hemingway."

The posted photos, meanwhile, appear to be part of a contest whose object was to see who could stick out their tongue the furthest while flashing the peace sign and wearing an oversize hat.

(c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Distributed by MCT Information Services




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