Sochi, Russia — Eric Gissendanner is covering the Winter Paralympics from Sochi, Russia, for the Wheelchair Sports Federation. He is also sending journal entries of his experiences exclusively for use in the Press-Republican.
March 16, 2014
SOCHI: Sunday evening marked the closing of the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games. The eight-day Sochi Games culminated with a two-hour celebration at the Fisht Olympic Stadium.
Paralympians, coaches, fans, media and Russian political officials, including President Vladimir Putin, filled the stands. The ceremony itself consisted of a parade of national flags, a light show, speeches by Paralympic representatives and the passing of the Paralympic flag to the PyeongChang mayor for the 2018 Games. Lastly, the night concluded with the extinguishment of the Paralympic torch.
As the flame went out, the realization of the week’s end hit me. Though not an athlete here, I kept my own busy daily schedule. From dawn’s early light to the moon hanging overhead at midnight, the hectic but fulfilling duties as a reporter made the days blend together. As often as I asked about the local time, I also frequently inquired as to the actual day. More often than not, I judged the week’s progression by where competitions stood (semifinals, finals). Once sled hockey reached the knockout stage, I assumed we must on Friday.
The realization of time passage also prompted me to reflect on the Games and what they meant to me as a person, not just a reporter. I entered Russia and was immediately greeted by a daunting flight of stairs in the Moscow train station. “This is going to be a long week,” I said to myself. However, the accessibility improved once I arrived in Sochi. City representatives boasted about making the area a barrier-free zone. A tall task for any city, especially in Russia. They succeeded.