Sports
3:55 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

What's Important In Sochi? Depends Where You Ask

Originally published on Thu February 13, 2014 6:58 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Eighty-eight countries have sent athletes to the Sochi Winter Olympics - from Albania to Zimbabwe. We're going to hear now from three reporters in Sochi from three different countries, starting with the Netherlands. They cheer their athletes on this way.

EDWIN PAQUES: Hop-hop-hop, we always say. (Foreign language spoken)

BLOCK: That's Edwin Paques(ph) with the Dutch Public Radio and television outlet, NOS. And today, the Dutch had a lot to cheer about in Sochi. They added two more speedskating medals to their overall count, which means this is already their most successful Winter Olympics ever.

PAQUES: Yeah. We are on 12 medals now in the Olympic Winter Games. And the record was from 1998 in Nagano where we got 11 medals. So we're now on a record. It's cheering. And that's after six days of Olympic games.

BLOCK: Well, let's talk about the dominance of the Netherlands. I mean, always, there's a sea of orange on the podiums for speedskating. But this year, wow, swept two men's events, right, the 5,000 meter and the 500 meter. Nothing but orange up on that podium.

PAQUES: Yeah. That was awesome for us also because the 5,000 meters was expected that there were one, two and three from the Netherlands. But in the 500 meters, all the countries have chances there. But this time, it's a sea-level ice rink, so that's an advantage of the Dutch. And, yeah, they did it with two brothers - twins - on the podium.

BLOCK: Yeah. Two identical twins, right...

PAQUES: Yes. Yeah, yeah.

BLOCK: ...who - gold and bronze in the 500 meters. So 12 medals, so far, all in speedskating. Are there any medal prospects, do you think, for the Netherlands off the rink in any other events?

PAQUES: Well, we had - four years ago, we had Nicolien Sauerbreij. She won the gold on the parallel giant slalom on snowboarding. And she's now 33 years old, and she still has chance to get again that gold medal.

BLOCK: Mr. Paques, describe what it's like as you go around Sochi. Are you seeing folks in orange everywhere - orange wigs, orange jackets, orange everything?

PAQUES: There is a lot of orange to see, yeah, of course. And people are waiving with flags. They are proud. And always when the Dutch have success around skate tournaments, the most fans are from Holland. Even in Sochi, the people who are from Netherlands will come to visit that and have a big party afterwards.

BLOCK: Yeah. It sounds like the Dutch bring the party with them.

PAQUES: Yeah. I think that's a little bit of truth. We have also the Holland House sponsored by a big beer drink. Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, was there a few days ago to see what it's like to be in that Holland House. So, yeah, everybody is curious what is it with the Dutch and that skating and that success.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Paques, enjoy the rest of the games.

PAQUES: Thank very much for your attention.

BLOCK: Edwin Paques in Sochi for Dutch Public Radio and TV. It was also a big day for Poland, with a surprise victory by Justyna Kowalczyk in women's 10-kilometer cross-country. The crazy thing is she was skiing on a fractured foot. She broke a bone just two weeks ago, even posted a photo of the X-ray on her Facebook page. No matter, today, Kowalczyk took a strong painkiller, powered through the race and won gold by quite a long stretch. Jatzyck Kovitzsky(ph) is chief sports correspondent with Polish National Radio. He told me it was an emotional scene at the finish line.

JATZYCK KOVITZSKY: She started to cry after she crossed the finish line. And it was a bit emotional for her for sure. I don't know was it because of pain or was it because of happiness.

BLOCK: Maybe it was both - both pain and happiness.

KOVITZSKY: Yeah. Yep. Both.

BLOCK: So if you were writing the headline for the newspapers in Poland, what would the headline be for that story?

(LAUGHTER)

KOVITZSKY: I don't know. Big win, for sure. Or, I don't know, unexpected win because frankly speaking, we expected she could get a medal but no gold medal.

BLOCK: How would you say unexpected win in Polish?

PAQUES: (Foreign language spoken) something like that.

BLOCK: Mr. Kovitzsky, thanks so much. Enjoy the rest of the Olympics.

KOVITZSKY: Thank you very much. Thank you very much.

BLOCK: That's Jatzyck Kovitzsky with Polish National Radio in Sochi. Poland has also won a second gold in men's ski jumping. And finally, we turn to Brazil. Not exactly a powerhouse in winter sports. Brazil has never medaled(ph) in seven Winter Olympics, which means sports reporter Carlos Gil, in Sochi for the Brazilian network TV Globo, has to find clever ways to make Brazilians care.

CARLOS GIL: Our coverage is much more based on the curiosities and not on results because Brazilian athletes - actually, they don't have chances to get a medal. It's just really hard.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: Let's just admit it, right?

GIL: Yeah.

We don't even have snow, you know?

BLOCK: Well, if you're not banking on a medal for Team Brazil, what are the curiosities that you're focusing on instead in your stories?

GIL: Well, for example, for - I've just arrived from the hockey arena. The male Russian team was playing. And we are trying to make a parallel between what hockey represents to Russia and soccer represents to Brazil, for example.

BLOCK: Aha.

GIL: So we'll be hosting this year the soccer World Cup in June. So we are always trying to make this kind of parallel to bring to Brazilian reality what's going on here.

BLOCK: Well, do you think, since Brazil is gearing up for the Summer Games hosted in Rio in 2016, is there more attention being paid back home now to the Winter Games in Sochi?

GIL: I think so. I really think so. People, you know, the Olympic spirit is growing. I think there is something that's funny because we are in the summer in Brazil now, so it's very, very, very hot. So I think when people turn on the TV to watch Winter Games, they are just like turning on the air conditioning, you know?

BLOCK: Yeah.

GIL: It's a refreshing time.

(LAUGHTER)

GIL: Oh, I'm here watching through the mountains, through the snow, through the ice, so this is so refreshing.

BLOCK: Is there a sport at the Winter Games that you did not expect to enjoy at all and you've surprised yourself by becoming kind of addicted to it?

GIL: Well, yeah. For me, everything is new as well because it's my first Winter Olympics. So actually, the figure skating, I would say, because figure skating, I was a little bit afraid of - well, maybe it's a little bit boring - it's much more ballet than sport. But I loved it. It was really emotional and really beautiful. I loved it.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Gil, have fun there in Sochi. Appreciate it.

GIL: Oh, thank you so much for inviting me to be here with you. It's been a pleasure. And, well, let's having fun.

BLOCK: Go, Team Brazil.

GIL: Go, Team Brazil.

BLOCK: That's Brazilian sports reporter Carlos Gil with TV Globo. We also heard from Jatzyck Kovitzsky with Polish National Radio and Edwin Paques with Dutch Public Radio and television, all in Sochi, bringing the Winter Olympics back home.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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