Monthly Archives: February 2018

My PyeongChang Diary (Part 8)

My final full day in South Korea was a busy one that would take me from our hotel in Phoenix Snow Park to the Olympic International Broadcast Center, back to Phoenix Park – and on to the Jinbu Station: destination Gangneung.

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I begin my day at 8:00 AM at the International Broadcast Center, about an hour away from Phoenix Park, depending on traffic. On this day, as the 2018 Winter Olympic Games are wrapping up, there’s no traffic. The IBC is a massive structure, built for the Games, which houses the central broadcast operations for NBC — and all the other networks covering the Games.

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When I first arrived at this facility nearly a month ago (to get a bit of pre-Olympic tech training), it was a bustling hive of human activity. Not today. Aside from a few final events and the Closing Ceremony, the Games are at a close — and so is the IBC.  We’ve come to deliver our 15-minute feature “20 Years of Olympic Snowboarding” — scheduled to air before the Closing Ceremony.

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Here’s the edit bay we’ve been assigned to so we can listen to the final audio mix, make any last-minute tweaks, do some color adjustments — and prep the sequence to roll-in on air. This is a luxury mansion compared to the metal box we’ve been working in for the past month.

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Likewise, the NBC commissary at the IBC is a 5-star restaurant compared to our “Kimteen” at Phoenix Park. I got a quality breakfast here to start what would be a long, adventurous day.

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NBC is obviously (and deservedly) proud of its Olympic broadcasting history. I’m honored to be even a small part of such a fine tradition. As jobs go, this gig was one of the coolest ever!

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Here’s the view outside the IBC. I’ve reviewed the audio mix for our feature — and now it’s up to our editor, Kevin, who knows the NBC ropes. I’m going back to my hotel to meet our executive producer and join him for the rest of my last full day on a journey to the east coast of South Korea.

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First, I’ll have to determine which of these shuttles will take me back to Phoenix Park. The drivers speak very little English and I can’t read any Korean, so it won’t be a cinch.

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Luckily, I find the right bus. These are no ordinary rides: they’re all tricked out. Every driver seems to have his own decorating style: lots of beads, fabrics and vibrant colors….

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…and, of course, CURLING on the shuttle’s TV screen. Koreans seem to love curling just as much as Canadians. I’ve seen more curling than any other sport — and I’m COVERING snowboarding!

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After I get back to our hotel, my executive producer, David, and I take a half-hour taxi ride to Jinbu Station — a brand spanking new train hub built to facilitate Olympic traffic.

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We purchase out tickets to Gangneung from one of these competent young men. The process is very efficient — and tickets are not that expensive. Our train leaves in 15 minutes. So far, so good.

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Here I am on the platform at Jinbu Station, awaiting the train to Gangneung. Will our journey be worth the effort? After a month confined to our Phoenix Snow Park compound — will we finally enjoy a legitimate Korean cultural experience? Our hopes run high.

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Of course, like my bright, wonderful grandson — and my dear father before me — I love trains. So, just the sight of these freshly-laid tracks and the tunnel looming ahead fill me with anticipation.

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And then — it’s here! Our train! And what a beauty it is. Check it out, Declan. Have you ever seen a cooler, sleeker train? I think I’m gonna love this trip.

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We’ve got tickets for Car #6. But first, we’ve got to let the disembarking passengers off.

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Here’s my boon traveling companion in his seat — ready for our ride to the coast. This journey was his idea. He has a lot of very good ideas.

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Our train ride from Jinbu Station to Gangneung takes less than an hour. Here’s the inside of the terminal at Gangneung. As I said before — so far, so good.

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David outside the Gangneung Station. Our plan is to take a tour bus, see the sights, find some tasty, authentic Korean food — and have a true Korean cultural experience.

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The Koreans are definitely INTO these Olympics. They line up to have their photos snapped in front of the Olympic rings — flanked by the PyeonChang 2018 mascots.

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Across the street from the train station, we find a “pop-up” cultural festival in what looks like a huge plastic tent– featuring everything from high-end cosmetics to hand-dripped coffee. Yes, there are Korean hipsters. And they LOVE their coffee.

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Right next to the hipsters serving artisan coffees — these ladies in traditional garb serve tea.

Moving on, we discover a traditional Korean market — and encounter these drum and dance performers getting ready to do their thing. Looks like we’re about to have a real cultural experience…

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By the way, Gangneung is a real city. After a month in the remote resort town of Phoenix Park, it’s exhilarating to be in the mix with so many Koreans in an urban environment.

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Then we hit the cultural jackpot: this traditional Korean market is about six blocks long and four blocks deep. And there are very few tourists. This is the heart and soul of Gangneung.

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Here’s a typical stall at the market. I don’t know what any of this stuff is. But David and I are  getting very hungry just looking at it all.

I don’t what this woman was cooking — but just the sound and smell of this boiling pot was exciting. Besides, I thought I glimpsed garlic — and that’s enough for me!

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We stopped at the stall on the right and sampled these skewers in a brown sauce.  Delicious. We would later learn that they were some kind of buckwheat noodle in a spicy fish sauce.

Those who know me know I’d never eat whatever is swimming around in this pot. (Eeels?) But, once again, it was clear that we were deep into real Korean culture now. Next, we’d go EVEN deeper…

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That’s right, folks. You’re looking at boiled ox head. We stumbled on a side street with four boiled ox head establishments in a row. The smell was powerful — the setting was steamy and dramatic. And the taste? Some things are best left a mystery.

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After our trip down Boiled Ox Head Lane, we ran into these helpful ladies, there to provide information to tourists. They spoke quite a bit of English — and  guided us to a local restaurant.

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Not only did our helpful trio lead us to a great, authentic Korean restaurant — they brokered our meal with the proprietor. The haggling went on for about 10 minutes. We were REALLY having an authentic Korean experience now.

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Once our menu was determined, the service was fast and attentive. We were the only non-Koreans in the place: just what we wanted.

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Here’s our main course. All these veggies and lean beef boil down into a sweet and savory stew, cooked right at our table by the restaurant staff.

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It may look like we just ate everything in the restaurant — but the Koreans like to serve a lot of sides: kimchee, rice, soy bean paste (wonderful!) and many other spicy vegetables. It’s glorious. Washed down with beer. (I’ve learned to abandon the white wine thing in Korea.) A wholly satisfying end to our Korean cultural journey. And to our 2018 Olympic adventure. 고맙습니다

 

 

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A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall…

R-2057737-1261406197.jpegWe modern, sophisticated, educated folk tend to dismiss the idea of prophets: people who can see the future and comment on what’s coming.

But give a listen to this song by Bob Dylan – who was just 22-years old when “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” was released on May 27, 1963 — on the album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.

Freewheelin’? Not on this song.

Bob Dylan may well be the greatest poet writing in the English language since Shakespeare. Listen to his song – and read the lyrics. I will say no more.

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son
And where have you been, my darling young one
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son
And what did you see, my darling young one
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder that roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
And the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

Recall these lines – and think about them. This was a young man, barely an adult in the early 1960’s, and he saw – and sang about – these images…

I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans

I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children

Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’

Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’

I met a white man who walked a black dog

I met a young woman whose body was burning

Where the people are many and their hands are all empty

Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters

Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison

Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten

Where black is the color, where none is the number

How could such a young man see the future (and his present) so clearly?

Now, tell me there’s no such thing as prophecy…

 

 

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Parkland, Revolution & Gun Control

2a-678x381Okay, so I’m confused. Let’s review…

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads…

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”2ndAmendment

As a student of English, I appreciate the specificity of the language – and the importance of punctuation. You can’t separate a parenthetical clause from the body of a sentence and reinterpret the meaning of the sentence to suit your ideology.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

gun_lawsThe Framers — our esteemed Founding Fathers – were clearly concerned (fresh from a Revolutionary War against Britain) that we have a well-drilled local militia ready to take the field and battle against foreign aggressors. Citizen soldiers (the famous Minutemen) were therefore, armed, drilled, and prepared to face foreign armies.

But foreign invasion is simply NOT a concern today. (Unless it’s a Russian-style cyber invasion.)

banner.revSo, why do we Americans allow civilians to own military-style semi-automatic weapons? (Automatic — if you factor in bump-stocks.) Are the NRA-loving folks armed with such high-powered weapons members of a “well regulated Militia?”

I think NOT.

2nd-amendment-gun-rifle-right-to-bear-arms-pro-gun-t-shirtsSo, given that Our Founders were Englishmen (or, at least, descendants of English speakers) versed in the King’s English, they could not have envisioned the situation we confront today: untold thousands of high-powered weapons in the hands of paranoid people who aren’t members of a “well regulated Militia.”

Sorry, Wayne LaPierre, I call your bullshit. And so do the student survivors of the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Like Australia – and all the other civilized countries in the world, we cannot accept mass shootings in our schools — or Country Music concerts — or anywhere else.color-Sec-amend-NRA

It’s time for effective gun control!

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My PyeongChang Diary (Part 7)

Those who know me know that I like meat. I’m an unrepentant carnivore.

26So, naturally, I have spent much of the scant recreational time I have during the Olympic Games in search of the best Korean barbeque available in the PyeongChang area.

Living in Los Angeles, I’m acquainted with the tradition of Korean barbeque – but I figured that, being in the motherland, I could treat myself to the very best. My first two attempts at local Korean BBQ dining were good – but neither was a meat-eater’s home run.

1aAnd then, last night, I found — and enjoyed — Korean BBQ heaven.

Our cameraman Corey found the place. It was a 20-minute cab ride from our Phoenix Park hotel – but we were hungry for adventure (and barbequed beef) so we were down for the excursion.

What follows is a pictorial progression through a beef lover’s Korean BBQ pilgrimage. Vegan’s need not apply…

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This is the downstairs dining area. You’ll note that there are only Koreans here at this point in the evening. That is absolutely a good sign. We’ve come to the right place.

5This night was Korean Lunar New Year. And the South Koreans were enjoying one of their biggest annual holidays. (See Vietnam’s Tet.) Does the Tet Offensive ring a bell?

We didn’t realize it when we set out, but the restaurant would get very, very busy — and we would have to wait a while to be seated, unlike these folks who shared a special Asian room, with no chairs.

(No shoes, please.)

After dinner, we’d be unable to get a cab ride home because of the busy holiday, but that’s another matter.

The whole evening took 5 hours. But, all in all, it was well worth it!

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The first step in traditional Korean Barbecue is to visit the butcher and buy your cuts of meat.

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This woman knows her meat. She explained that the steer we’d be eating was raised organically, with no hormones, grass fed — and A #1. She was not bullshitting.

We bought our beef BEFORE we cooked it. That’s the way it goes. You buy your meat first, then you get seated — and your drinks and everything else are billed later. Meat is Job #1.

With cameraman Corey in the lead, we hauled out cuts of beef to the upstairs dining room after a 20-minute wait. We were famished — but we anticipated beefy, tasty, spicy joy in our near future.

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The upstairs dining room. It’s getting busy. The meat is about to get cooking…

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Unlike our cold, steel and glass hotel in Phoenix Park, this Korean BBQ place features warm wood and delightful crystal chandeliers — which we would later learn are from the United States!

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Seated across the table from me are my AP, Agatha, and my EP, David. We’re all hungry.

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First come the condiments: onions, garlic, chili paste, peppers, sea salt & other culinary joys.

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Next, they fire up the tabletop grill. The main meat-lovers event is about to go down…

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As the meat grills, you combine ingredients into your bowl — in my case, chili paste, peppers, onions and garlic — so you can plunge your beef bits deep into this spicy heaven.

Next, Corey pulls down the exhaust fan. Otherwise, we’ll all be asphyxiated….

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Our waiter provides some assistance. Everyone is helpful. They all want us to have a great time.

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As our first beef course sears on the grill, our crew poses for a pre-meal photo. We’ve all been working hard — and we’re eager for a great meal. Luckily, David & Corey are Korean BBQ experts.

Corey took over as grillmaster. For those of you who know me from Greek Easter — you can appreciate how much I respect Corey’s Korean BBQ chops!

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Each cut of beef was better than the next — and the last course was the best of all…

Corey was far too modest. His grilling of that last fabulous cut of beef was superb. But our meal was not yet complete. Corey had another great idea…

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At Corey’s suggestion we ordered this. Somehow, all of this tasty goodness boiled down into an incredible, sweet beef and veggie soup.

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And finally, here’s our host. Jean went to college and spent a lot of time in Los Angeles (as have a lot of educated South Koreans we’re met). She returned to South Korea a year ago  and started running this restaurant — recognized on Trip Advisor as the best in PyeongChang.

I’m awarding her an Winter Olympic Gold Medal for the Best Korean BBQ.

All hail, Jean!

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My PyeongChang Diary (Part 6)

It’s Valentine’s Day here in PyeongChang, South Korea (though not in the U.S. quite yet) – and I began the day hoping it would turn out to be a love fest for Shaun White, the greatest Olympic snowboarder who ever dropped into a 22-foot halfpipe.

I could tell right away that the tempo of movement and people and energy here at our Phoenix Snow Park venue had ticked up noticeably from previous days.2

3The view from just outside our edit bay showed that folks were starting to head toward the halfpipe to see if Shaun White could win his third gold medal in four ties. Or whether his Japanese rival, Ayumu Hirano, would carry the day.

Or who knows? Maybe some dark horse rider — perhaps one of the other three young American boarders who qualified for the finals — would surprise us all and snatch the gold medal from the favorites.

4I tramped through the snow toward the halfpipe, negotiating the crowds that had come to share in the excitement – and to be present when Winter Olympic history might be made.

It’s good to be a credentialed member of the press. You get to pass through your own entrance, and skip the lines to a degree.

But, even with credentials, there are times when you’re packed in with the fans. And that’s cool, too. You can feel the buzz.

Small wonder. People have traveled from all over the world to be a part of this day. This event. This moment.6

9I managed to skip the longest section of the line and take an express route to the pipe – passing a Korean band that must have just played to warm up the crowd. There’s always a musical performance before these events. I wished I had gotten to the venue in time to see these guys do what they do.

Arriving at the base of the halfpipe, the size of the crowd was large – and growing. This was clearly the biggest live audience I’ve yet seen at our venue. They all know that Shaun White is in the house. And something cool might be happening.1011

Here’s the halfpipe. If Shaun’s on today – he’s going to write the greatest chapter in the history of Olympic snowboarding in that pipe. Or, maybe he won’t. After all, he finished fourth at Sochi in 2014, just missing the medal podium.Flags

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The people massing at the foot of the halfpipe are an international combination of tourists, athletes and rabid sports fans from around the globe. They come ready to cheer on their national teams — but they appreciate every Olympian’s effort. You really do feel that world peace is possible when in you’re in a group like this. Which may also be part of why these people are here.

CrewAfter the first run, I spotted my camera crew posted on an overlook above the crowd.

Taking advantage of my trusty press credentials yet again, I joined my talented cameraman, Corey, and my excellent associate producer, Agatha, on their perch to witness the final two runs of the finals.25

red gerard gold_1518317350621.png_12905470_ver1.0.jpgIn these finals, the 12 riders get 3 runs. The best score in any of those runs is the one that counts.

Shaun White threw down a great first run, which put him at the top of the leader board. Then Ayumu Hirano posted a score that knocked Shaun down to #2.

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Ayumu Hirano in action in his 2nd run in the PyeongChang halfpipe .

Soon after Ayumu Hirano took the lead, in Shaun’s second run, the Shaun White Coronation Express went off the rails.

27You may not have been able to see it in that video – but the sound of the crowd surely clued you in to the fact that Shaun wiped out mid-run. He would need a clean, stellar third run to best Ayumu Hirano for the gold.

Hirano fell in his third run – and was thus unable to improve upon his lead over Shaun White. To a killer competitor like Shaun, that’s putting blood in the water for a halpipe-eating shark. Here’s my view of Shaun White’s final run of the competition.

imageThat was it. Last ride of the day. Best score of the day. Step up, Mr. White, and accept your third Olympic Gold Medal.

After witnessing that legendary Olympic moment, I was peckish. Luckily, the NBC commissary is not far from the halfpipe, so within minutes I was treated to this…IMG_6209

IMG_6211A Valentine’s Day party!

It always feels like we’re on some far-flung military base and they’re trying to remind us of the comforts and traditions we enjoyed back home.

It’s nice though.

Here’s to all my darling girls: Maura, Emilia, Eva – and most especially, Victoria! I miss you all.

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My PyeongChang Diary (Part 5)

Dateline: Phoenix Park, PyeongChang, South Korea – Sunday February 11, 2018.

Today, on the Olympic Slopestyle snowboard course, two guys from Cleveland shared a moment of Olympic history. To be sure, one of us did far more than the other. But in the end, your author may have played a larger part than anyone might have imagined.

1We begin in the morning. I went through security at Phoenix Park shortly before 10:00 AM – the scheduled start of the men’s slopestyle finals.

As always, after the screening software read my credentials — and my shabby, unkempt photo and vital info flashed upon the screen — I was granted passage onto the venue.

I could tell right away that the environment at the venue was very different from the days before.

There were a LOT more people — many, many more.

An Olympic finals event was about to take place.

Medals were going to be earned.

And many people from across the world were gathering to see if their beloved athletic countrymen would lay claim to gold, silver or bronze.5
7Up until today, there were no crowds at our venue. The only people I saw were NBC employees, OBS folks (Olympic Broadcast employees) and Olympic athletes and coaches. Now, I joined masses of enthusiastic fans as we made our way up the mountain to the grandstand erected at the bottom of the slopestyle course.

As I schlepped my way uphill, I was gratified to see that the police were in force.

They walked up the hill with us and they were stationed at the base of the venue. Nobody seemed concerned for their safety. I didn’t even think about it. The world was gathering to have fun and share the joy of winter sports. And we all appreciated the vigilant security folk.9

8I also appreciated the woven burlap mats that were laid out for us as we made our way up the mountain. Back in Mammoth, California a month ago, I must admit that I did a lot of slipping and sliding on my way up to the halfpipe finals. These burlap mats made our ascent so much easier – and safer.

Up and up and up we went.

This is a mountain we’re climbing, after all.

And if our climb wasn’t as steep as it was — just how dramatic would this slopestlye finals run be?12

Every step we took promised greater drama on the course above.

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Arriving at the base of the slopestyle run, I could see both the course above…

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…the grandstand below.

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And, of course, the boisterous international crowd — proudly representing their counties and getting psyched up to cheer on their nation’s athletes.

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24Unlike many Winter Olympic events, it’s impossible for the live audience at the slopestyle venue to watch the athletes as they make their way through the course.

Those of us in live attendance at the event must watch on video as the athletes make their way down the course.

red gerard gold_1518317350621.png_12905470_ver1.0.jpgWe can catch fleeting glimpses of the boarders in the distance far above us – but it’s only when they launch themselves into the air on that final jump that they come fully into view, rocketing down the hill to the finish.

Sometimes they arrive at the finish upright. Often, they crash land right in front of us. It certainly makes for a dramatic finish.

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1Of course, I was primarily interested in the prospects of the one American in the final: 17-year old Redmond “Red” Gerard.

I met him this past January in Mammoth, California.

When we interviewed Red in Mammoth, the Cleveland native (Rocky River, to be exact) told us that he wasn’t all that into the Olympics.

He was all about the X-Games and the Mountain Dew Tour.

As far as he was concerned, the Olympics were just another contest.

Red’s first two runs spoke to his blasé Olympic attitude. He wiped out both times – displaying none of the free-spirited style, talent, tricks and focus that earned him a spot on the U.S. team – and his berth in the finals. Meanwhile, over the next two rounds, the Canadians in particular were putting down runs that left Red Gerard at the very bottom of the standings going into the final round.

Then Red uncorked the magic in his final run…

gettyimages-916757406red gerard 5_1518324187546.png_12921684_ver1.0.jpg17-year old Red Gerard – too young to vote in the United States – earned our nation’s first Gold Medal in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Sure, he put down an amazing final run.

But what part did Red’s fellow Cleveland native play in his unlikely Olympic victory?

This was the shirt that I was wearing underneath all my layers today…

Wahoo

Chief Wahoo’s days may be numbered – but he hung in there long enough to give Red Gerard the winning edge.

Go Red! Go Tribe! Go Cleveland!

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My PyeongChang Diary (Part 4)

I’ve been in South Korea for almost a week now.

Every day, I’ve been tramping to and from our hotel to the Phoenix Park resort where the Olympic snowboarding events are being held – and where we’re making our brief documentary on the 20-year history of Olympic snowboarding. (To be shown before the closing ceremony.)

I’ve also been taking advantage of the hotel’s gym, knocking off some kilometers on the treadmill – and working up a sweat.

Between my gym clothes and the various layers I wear each day to insulate myself from the chilly winter weather in the snow-covered mountains of PyeongChang, it’s time to do my laundry. Two bags full.

But nothing is easy for this innocent abroad.

And, as you’ll see below, the simple task of washing my clothes turned out to be an adventure…

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To do your laundry, you must first FIND the laundry room. My journey of discovery begins in the 6th floor lobby of The White Hotel. Outside, there’s a haze obscuring the mountains. The location of the laundry room will prove no less obscure.

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The sign next to the elevator indicates several points of interest. The laundry room is not among them. In retrospect, that may only seem to be the case because I can’t read Korean.

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The signage in the elevator gets me no closer to my goal. At left, it’s clear that I should not lean up against the elevator door — and that, perhaps, I shouldn’t stick my hand in it. The sign at right is anyone’s guess. Though not a Korean, of course. A Korean would’t have to guess. But I’m at a loss.

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Emerging from the elevator on the lobby level, I arrive first at this room. But it’s clearly not the laundry. It’s the hotel gift shop. It’s very pretty — but I’ve never seen anyone in it: not a customer or even a clerk. Many very artsy objects are displayed. The whole setup is a mystery to me. So is the location of the laundry room.

Sendak.png

Next to the gift shop is the business center. I have never seen business stuff being done there. Usually, I see one or two Koreans reading there. (Perhaps enjoying Sendak?) And this morning, I saw a gold medal skier walk into this room with a fifth of scotch and a glass. Business? Maybe.

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Moving down the hallway, the signage directs me to several rooms — but not to the laundry room.

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Past the restaurant and banquet rooms — at the end of the hallway — is another elevator. Convinced the laundry room is not on the lobby level, I descend into the basement.

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I rode the elevator with this Korean man. He was bringing kegs of beer to the lobby beer garden. Alas, it was his first time at The White Hotel — so he couldn’t help me find the laundry room.

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As the beer vendor exited to the parking lot, I turned my head to the right — and there it was!

Wash

It looks simple enough. A washer and a dryer, clearly labeled, complete with instructions.

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This may look like a lot of money — but it will take most of it to get my one load of laundry done. The washer is 5,000 South Korean won — and so is the dryer. 5,000 won is about $4.61 in U.S. currency. Detergent cost 500 won — or about 46 cents. Same for a sheet of fabric softener.

Det

Now, the real trouble begins. After I insert my 500 won coin, I discover that the vending machine is OUT of detergent. The bottom row has laundry bags. The next row up has fabric softener. But the two top rows dedicated to detergent are empty. Completely empty.

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I take the elevator back up to the lobby level and ask these ladies for help. The girls on the right are sweet and want to help — but they have no clue what I’m talking about. Luckily, the older lady on the left (obviously a manager) knows just who to call. Interestingly, when she makes the call, I notice that, as she spoke, the Korean word for “detergent” appeared to “detergent”.

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This fellow was dispatched to assist me. He came down with me to the laundry room, opened a utility closet and presented me with ONE packet of laundry detergent. But he didn’t re-stock the machine. He checked to see that it was, indeed, empty — but evidently stocking vending machines is not in his job description. I was very grateful nonetheless.

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The helpful man instructed me to put the detergent into the bin on top of the machine. However, a sticker on the machine told me to put the detergent in the drum. I took the machine’s advice.

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In went my 5,000 won…

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And now, another conundrum. Instructions on top of the washer clearly say “Press start button”. But there doesn’t seem to be a “start button”. There is, however (written in English!) a “stop/pause” button. I press it — and the washing machine lurches into action. Go figure.

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Success at last!

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After getting my laundry done, I walked down — as I do every day — to The Phoenix Park Hotel: our entrance to the extreme sports Olympic venue.

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As I enter the hotel lobby, bundled against the cold, I ask myself, “How soon will these clothes need to be washed?” and “Do I really need to wear so many layers?”

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