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|| News Item: Posted 2014-02-13

Dispatches from Sochi: Home Sweet Home?
USA TODAY's Robert Hanashiro reports from the Winter Olympics.

By Robert Hanashiro,

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Sunny side up eggs and various sausages for breakfast at the media housing complex.
A lot has been made in the blogisphere as well as the mainstream media about the living conditions that the early-arrivers encountered. From the (in)famous double toilets to lack of shower curtains to undesirable meals to brown water out of taps. But I am here to tell you: All is good here in Sochi, especially now that the competition has started.

The whining has subsided - save for those predisposed to whine anyway. (Know anyone like that? I thought you would.)

Speaking from my own experiences this is about as good as it gets. As previously mentioned, the room I’m in is large, roomy, bright and for the most part glitch-free. (Yes I now have bulbs in the nightstand lamps and they are cleaning the room daily.)

By comparison, unfinished sheetrock bedroom walls, razor topped boundary fences, cold water only bathrooms, lack of/or slow Internet, lack of heat/air conditioning and signs next to johns forbidding the depositing of toilet paper are just a handful of quirks I’ve experienced at Olympic housing over the years. So Sochi is pretty darn good in my experience.

As I’ve been saying: WE’RE IN RUSSIA FOR GOD’S SAKE! (Channel Anthony Bourdain: "When in Russia do as the Russians…")

Now the food in the media village cafeteria - that might be another story.

Breakfast here often consists of sausages of varying sizes and shapes; slices of cheese, cold egg casseroles, salads, sliced tomatoes, fruits, melons and stale bread. Thankfully there’s a toaster near by.

Every other day or so there will be a "breakfast surprise" as I like to call them. One day it was fried chicken cutlets. Another it was some kind of "meat mix." And the most startling was a tray full of sunny side up eggs. Definitely not a sight for the hung-over.

But the black tea is good and the less adventurous can always find something to start off the day.

There are several restaurants, some in large tents and small kiosks spread around the "campus." The food is great and several are open 24-hours. My buddy, Bob Deutsch, has found "Pectopah" the AP hangout, a building with large glass windows, ringed in flashing colored lights, loud music, an occasional floorshow with fare like chicken caesar salads, pastas, pizzas, local seafood and steaks to his liking. Open ‘til 1AM and serves breakfast all day!

My partner at long track speedskating, Jeff Swinger from our Cincinnati paper, had a cool find: one of the kiosks stays open pretty late and serves an interesting honey beer (tastes more like cider than beer to me) and features something called "Solar Pies" - doughnut holes stuffed with cheeses covered in a dusting of powered sugar.

Home Sweet Home Part 2: Adler Arena Skating Center

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

A high-speed VLAN drop at one of the positions at the Adler Arena Skate Center will tether cameras so images will upload directly to editors.
I am the "anchor staffer" for long track speedskating so I will be spending most of my time at the Adler Arena Skating Center. I’ve covered a lot of speedskating over the years, beginning in Lilyhammer, Norway in 1994 with Johann "The Boss" Koss who seemed to win every gold medal they gave out in the Viking Ship (the name of the venue).

Adler is probably one of the easiest venues I’ve worked in for any Winter Olympics and any sport. During my first days in Sochi I spent a lot time wandering around, looking at photo positions and getting familiar with a place I’d probably spend more time in than any other. It’s large, with easy access (the elevator is 10 steps from the photo work room), lots of photo positions (though TV obviously has monopolized a lot of the space trackside), good light (though spotty in the turns) and has great food in the media lounge (hmmmm - I sense a pattern here).

USA TODAY has spent a lot of money to put in VLAN drops at most of the photo positions we will be working in during this Olympics. These are high-speed data/lines. This means that we will be shooting tethered most of the time with images flowing directly from cameras to servers in the Sochi Main Press Center. There, editors will make selects, process, caption and upload our images.

This is a good news / bad news proposition. The photographers working for USA TODAY will be able to get out images faster than we’ve ever done at previous Olympic Games. But the images uploaded from the camera will be without captions plus you have to rely on the cameras' small LCD screen to judge not only content but also whether the image is sharp. On the backend, photo editors ID'ing athletes is challenging. At speedskating we’re fortunate because we first send a frame of the scoreboard with the athletes’ names and there are only two skaters in a race at time.

Since I am "anchored" at Adler Arena I’ve been able to get to know some of the volunteers which has been a lot of fun and I’ve seen a lot of my friends cycle their way through this event.

Most photographers (especially one-man-bands) jump from sports to sport, shooting just a U.S. race and then heading off to a bus ride to another event. Seeing good friends like Shawn Cullen (working for Sports Illustrated), Mark Reis (Colorado Springs Gazette), Sean Haffey (San Diego U-T), Roberto Beck (SI) and Nhat Meyer (San Jose Merc) has been a highlight of my time here.

More TK.

(Robert Hanashiro is covering his 13th Olympic Games for USA TODAY. You can follow his (mis)adventures in Sochi, Russia via Instagram: and on Twitter: @SptShtr_Bert)

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