Faces of Olympic Park (Slideshow)
Olympic Park is crowded. People wait in lines for the Coca-Cola museum and the Bosto store. People take pictures in front of the torch and Olympic rings. People sport national pride and meet new friends from other parts of the world. But who are these people other than just faces in the crowd?
A prideful tourist
Standing in line in front of the Bolshoy Ice Dome, four seamen waited to take their picture under the Olympic rings. The seamen, who had been at the Games since Opening Ceremony, were on a leave from school in western Russia. Their black uniforms contrasted the multicolored rings that hung above them in the morning light. It was the perfect way to start the day, Vladislav Eduardovich said.
"This trip has been so amazing for us," he said. "We got to see the lighting of the torch, which was an honor because not a lot of people get access to it. It really fills people with national pride."
The depressing day off
Morozev Mogol is a volunteer. Every day, he works at Olympic Park at different information hotspots. Every day, he listens to the same American pop music blaring over the loud speakers. Every day, he is asked the same question multiple times. Today was his day off, and he was at the park at 10 a.m.
"It's my one day off, and I get to spend it in the same spot where I spend every other day, but at least I don't have to answer any questions," he said. "But I might if someone needs help finding something."
Ekaterina Aleksandrovna and her family sported Russian flag antlers as they strutted beside the Olympic torch. Speaking loudly in Russian, the four women talked to strangers as they passed by. When a translator asked them to say something in English, Aleksandrovna wasn't hesitant.
"Here it goes," she said. "How made are the hell in English and contact elves."
Joclyn Mellard's mom is the doctor for Canada's women's hockey team. She spent her first day in the park wearing a Canadian jersey signed by the team. From the time she walked through the front doors until she got halfway through the park, four people stopped her and asked for a picture. Right before she entered the Canadian team's house, she was stopped again, but this time, the man gave her 100 rubles ($3) and a pin.
"I guess they just really love Canada," she said. "I don't blame him, and the attention doesn't bother me. I'm actually excited everyone here is so friendly. It's not what I expected."
Not just a librarian
Tatianna may be a librarian by day, but at night she volunteers her time - and vocal cords - to Hayat, a traditional performance group. A native of the land, she has been volunteering for 20 years and performs at every major holiday. She stood on the sidelines singing hymns over KeSha's "Tik Tok" playing over the loud speaker.
"We perform in different places over the park, and it's a great opportunity for us to show off our culture," she said.
Breaking it down
A group of men wearing green jumpsuits surrounded a boom box pumping out Russian dance music. Standing in a semi-circle, the men took turns jumping in the middle and breakdancing on a black and white checkered mat. They engaged with the audience, getting them to clap and occasionally join the dance circle.
"At least clapping off beat is universal," one spectator said.
Standing away from the breakdancing group, Polina Petrova swung hula-hoops around her arms and legs. She gracefully lifted her left foot high into the sky and swung it back down the opposite side. She was practicing for her performance after the b-boys pack up their boom box and dance mat. A rhythmic gymnast from Moscow, she was excited to be outside in spring clothes.
"I love the fresh air and the feeling of the warm sun on my skin," she said. "Even though I'm performing every day, three times a day, I'm on a vacation."
Drinking games before Olympic Games
Caitlin Cain and Craig Dunn are graduate students studying in Beijing. They were spending four days at the Olympic Games, but the trip to Sochi took longer than that. On a break from classes, they had decided to make the six-day trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway.
"We spent a lot of time reading and playing cards," Dunn said. "We drank too - a lot."
A mobile party
Walking in front of Bolshoy Ice Dome, Sergai Chudakov chugged a beer before he started playing his gold accordion. He led a group of 10 people covered in Russian flags through Olympic Park singing the song "Katusha" and chanting "Russia." They were on their way to cheer on the Russian curling team.
"We are here to support the best team in the world by having fun," he said. "The more fun we have, the more fun they will have."
Empty beer cups covered the Coca-Cola table seven Norwegian students huddled around. An eighth person walked up balancing new $5 beers in his hand. It was their first night at the park, and they were going to spend it drinking.
The students were staying in a motel somewhere between Sochi and Olympic Park for 16 days, only paying $500 dollars.
"It's pretty run-down, not even grass would stay there," Ola Vilbo said. "But hey, we are here to drink and meet Russian women. Who knows, we might not even remember most of the trip."
Train ride confessions
Greg Burger has been skiing since he was in his mother's womb. He took to the snow on his own two feet when he was 2 years old and has been addicted since - so much that he has been to the past four Winter Olympic Games. For him, this one is not better or worse than the past ones, but it has one distinct difference.
"I have never been patted down so much at a Games," he said. "Every time we get on the train to Olympic Park, the security guard gets to cop a feel. It makes me feel safe, though."
Pins for Drinks
The first two days Valeria Tsyganova visited Sochi, she collected 21 Olympic pins. Working with visitors to Russia, she found out the nicer she was, the more pins she was given - and the more pins she had to barter with.
"It's crazy. People go nuts over these pins," she said. "If I plan it out, I can use these for food and drinks until I leave. Some even trade them for kisses."
Lost in Translation
George Lobov is working as a translator in Sochi. The go-to man for communication, Lobov learned very quickly the job isn't easy.
"Irish accents are impossible to understand, and sometimes I just nod at them to make them feel like I know what they are saying," Lobov said. "It's hard speaking English all day, then going back to Russian after work. I'll start conversations with my friends in English, and they will just stare at me."
BSU at the Games is a freelance news agency operated by 41 student journalists reporting from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games through an immersive-learning program at Ball State University.