The 2014 Olympics served as my fourth Winter Games assignment, and has been by far the most convenient and enjoyable experience.
The disclaimer is that I missed the 2002 Games due to other newsroom responsibilities, so I have no basis for comparison with Salt Lake City's production. I will say it was fun to walk out of the old Tribune building at 1 a.m. and have Main Street filled with people from all over the world.
Anyway, here's my ranking of the four international experiences:
No. 1 - Sochi: It helped that many of Utah's homegrown and training-based athletes performed well, creating good stories. Beyond that, the accessibility of the venues, the incredibly efficient transportation and the good weather converged to make covering these Games as easy as ever could be hoped. The security presence was more comforting than obtrusive, the volunteers were friendly and the entire operation was seamless, from my perspective.
And my 350-square-foot housing space became more livable all the time. The window latch got fixed upon request, a shower curtain was installed in the first week without my asking and a light bulb suddenly appeared in the nightstand lamp one day.
No. 2 - Vancouver: I loved the town of Whistler, British Columbia, the resort area that hosted the mountain events, but the nearly two-hour bus ride each way from Vancouver was just too long. Otherwise, Vancouver's Games were great because there was only a one-hour time difference from Utah and because the Canadians were so into Olympics, much like Utahns in 2002. I remember being squeezed into light rail cars on the way downtown every day, but that was part of the fun.
No. 3 - Turin: The weather resembled Sochi's and I liked where we stayed, in a residential neighborhood that made us feel more like part of the culture. The drawback was the distance to the mountain venues, even from some of the mountain-based accommodations. I'll never forget what Tribune reporter Mike Gorrell went through in that setting, with highly inconsistent transportation and other hassles. Those Games also lacked vibrant venues, partly because Turin is an industrial city and folks were working during the week.
No. 4 - Nagano: Some of the venues were so far away, it was ridiculous. The weather was also a problem, with several postponed events. I'll always remember a snowboarding event on the first morning of my first Olympics. The rain kept coming, and the electronic sign at the venue said: "The competition has stopping." That's exactly what it had.
The good news, based on these rankings, is my Winter Games experience keeps getting better. Who knows whether I'll be going to PyeongChang in 2018. I do know that Sochi would be tough to top, in multiple ways.
- Kurt Kragthorpe
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