Passing halfway point in Sochi with US, Norway leading medals race
If there's better weather for the Olympic Winter Games I want to go there.
Actually this is very close to the 2002 Salt Lake City experience. I worked those Games at Deer Valley in comparable weather. With the exception of some overcast days, it's been a comfortable Games here in Sochi, and that comfort extends beyond the weather.
Once everyone arrived and overcame the lodging snafu that affected some due to unfinished hotels, it's been a smooth and friendly ride.
Volunteers here - the gatekeepers, if you will - have been strategically placed in their positions for their friendliness and willingness to assist visitors. They work with a smile on their faces, and if you are looking around hopelessly, they will engage you to solve a problem.
One such young person was Dmitry, a resident of Moscow, working in transportation for NBC. He and his friend Sasha picked me up twice this week for early shoots with the Today Show. You may have seen Matt Lauer and Al Roker take their two luge runs yesterday.
Dmitry spoke excellent English, and when I queried him on it, he told me that he studied at Temple University.
I've noticed that volunteers around the transportation hubs are young and hospitable, as are hotel and restaurant employees, while the security types and bus drivers tend to be older and quieter. The latter group is friendly in that they will acknowledge your hello with just a nod of the head.
I observed this dynamic for a few days and then it hit me: the older citizens may be more closely aligned with the Russia prior to its collapse, or the old USSR, while the younger residents have learned about the West thanks to the internet and social media.
While I'm not claiming that we've all become homogenous in 2014, there is much to be said about how much electronic media has taught us about one another and our cultures.
The country's leader, President Vladimir Putin, may come from an older school, but he's savvy in the ways of the best PR people. His differences with United States President Barack Obama have been evident for some time, predominantly over social issues.
Aware of all the cautions chronicled by the world media prior to the Sochi Games, he has made himself a visible entity at numerous events. Just last night he was seen socializing at USA House in the Olympic Park. Ever the charmer, he's also helped Austria celebrate their ski successes so far by frequenting the Austria House. And he played well in Canada House, making all of these appearances in view of stunned athletes as he hob-nobbed with Olympic officials.
As we enter the final eight days of Sochi, we are observing a nation exemplifying change through its' youth. And as we understand that while diplomats may have their differences, we come to Sochi and discover that the rest of us have much more in common than we realized.