Settling in: Falmouth resident provides pre-Olympic report from Sochi

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The end of the month has arrived and I am into my 11th day here in Sochi, Russia preparing for my volunteer work at 2014 Winter Olympics. I have been assigned to work as a general volunteer at Endurance Village, one of the two Olympic mountain villages with the third being the coastal village located by the Olympic Park in Adler south of Sochi.

Our venue is hosting the cross-country skiing and biathlon events and the village is totally self-contained to accommodate and service the athletes, coaches, trainers and NOC officials. Our village is the highest elevation of the two mountain villages at approximately 1,400 feet.

My role as a volunteer is working with the Village Plaza events group. The Village Plaza offers all types of services to the athletes, trainers, coaches and guests, including a state-of-art fitness centre, spa, games room, Internet cafe, entertainment club, DVD and karaoke lounge, general store, art gallery, multi-faith centre, the usual retail services, beauty salon, florist, bank, ticket office for events, post office, library, cleaning and laundry services — everything you can imagine.

There are two dining rooms, one for the athletes and their contingents, and another for operational staff and the volunteers.

In our group, there are about 40 volunteers to man the two operational shifts seven days a week between 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. to service everyone. In my group, I am the only international volunteer with the rest being young Russians averaging about 23 years of age. They are mostly university students or young professionals from all over the Russian Federation. About 70 per cent of the volunteer force is made up of women and that holds true for our group as well.

All of the training to date has been in Russian so I am totally immersed in the language. Many who speak some English have been very helpful with translation. I have several guardian angels who have taken me under their wing and are helping me translate. My target by the end of the Olympics is to be able to converse a little in Russian with my workforce mates.

For the most part, volunteers working in the two mountain villages are housed at 7 Village Cluster in East-Sadok, east of Sochi, and about a 50-minute train ride from the Olympic Village. The Olympic Village is located in Adler, south of Sochi.

Housing accommodations are pretty Spartan-like, generally two bedrooms with four beds, a kitchen area, a bath and a toilet for about six to eight people. Our dinning area for meals is close by and presently being set up as a lounge area for relaxing with a television and maybe wifi for Internet use.

The meals are basic Russian fare — lots of soups, borscht, stew types with rice and potatoes, cabbage salads for lunch and dinner. Breakfast is usually a sweet spring roll along with several types of porridge or rice. Tea is standard, or coffee with no milk or cream, and juices and fruit are non-existent. Butter or margarine doesn't seem to be used with bread.

Probably the toughest thing for most volunteers is the commute time to report to and from work. Our transit passes cover the Olympic buses and the high-speed train but not for local domestic buses. For most, it's a one-hour to one and half hour trip between buses, waling and cable car. For those of us in the mountain, and for some living in the coastal villages in Sochi and Adler, the commute can be up to three hours.

For me, it's about a two-hour venture because of the pounding taken by my knees over endless stairs, steep slopes to traverse and lots of hard pavement. The way to work was definitely designed for the young crowd and not senior citizens.

At this point I don't have to worry about working out at the fitness centre as my walking is averaging about four to six miles a day and lots of cardio activity.

Things are rolling into high gear, with still lots of work to be done before the opening of the games.

At the Olympic Park, grass, trees and soil are still being planted in the rain, pavers and walkways are being installed. The Russians are confident everything will be ready for opening day.

Our uniforms are very colourful — with the colours representing the patchwork of the 83 ethnic groups and territories of Russia.

Organizations: Russian Federation, 2014 Winter Olympics

Geographic location: Sochi, Adler, Russia Olympic Park Falmouth Endurance Village Olympic Village East-Sadok Nova Scotia

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