Pages: In cold Cebu, an even colder Sochi

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Thursday, January 30, 2014


THE Olympics are held every two years. The Summer and Winter Games alternate. Two years ago, it was London. Two years from now, it will be Brazil. Those are the Summer Olympics that include games like basketball and archery and beach volleyball and BMX cycling.

Next Friday, starting February 7, it will be the Sochi Olympics. It’s the 22nd time that the Winter Games will be organized — and a first for Russia since the USSR was dismantled (they hosted the 1980 Moscow Olympics).

Sochi is a little-known Russian resort city. If you look at Google Maps, you’ll find it far away from big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg.

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I’ve had the privilege of visiting Russia. Together with Atty. Jacinto and Malu Mendez—my wife Jasmin’s parents —and their whole family, we rode the oversized ship named Princess Cruises in September 2011. We visited a dozen European Baltic cities including St. Petersburg. In what was formerly called Leningrad, we docked for two nights and three days in St. Petersburg and toured historical spots like St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral and the world-famous Hermitage Museum.

Russia is exerting all it can to make the Sochi Games a success. It is billed as the most expensive Olympics ever — costing over $50 billion. Their supreme leader, Vladimir Putin, is hoping that sports will be a way to show the world the might and glory of his nation.

After the Olympics are done, the city of Sochi will also be hosting the Formula 1 Grand Prix race. This is the first time that Russia will host Sebastian Vettel & Co.

The Russian Grand Prix is set on October 12, 2014. Not contended with these twin events, Russia will host an even larger sporting milestone: the FIFA World Cup in 2018. Next to Brazil, we can say that Russia will be the face of sports in the coming years.

The Sochi Olympics will host 15 winter sports disciplines and 98 events. And, continuing the tradition, immediately after the Feb. 7 to 23 Winter Games, the Paralympic Winter Games will run from March 7 to 16, also in Sochi.

Pinoys? Though our temperature is relatively cold these days, do we have any who’ve qualified to join the snow-filled events in Russia?

Surprisingly, yes. Michael Christian Martinez, only 17, is the first homegrown Pinoy to join the Winter Games. He hails from Muntinlupa City and will be competing in the figure-skating routine. Based on my research, he started skating in 2005 as an eight-year-old at the SM Southmall Skating Rink in Las Piñas City. In the Phil. Star article “Pinoy skater to join 2014 Olympic Winter Games” last Jan. 22 and written by Chiara Mapa, Martinez was quoted as saying, “I didn’t really expect that I would make it to the Olympics. But while at Colorado Springs (in 2008), I saw that I was actually capable of doing the jumps and spins and was successfully learning the right techniques, so I thought, maybe I can make it to the Worlds…maybe even to the Olympics.”

The second Pinoy qualifier is 23-year-old Christopher Caluza. Born in California, the Fil-Am is the 2012 Philippines national champion — also in figure-skating. (There is a third Pinoy in the Sochi list — but the Canadian-born Gilmore Junio chose to represent Canada.)

The Philippines actually holds the distinction of being the first nation in the tropics to join the Winter Games. This was back in 1972 during the Sapporo Olympics when two skiers joined the giant slalom. But we have not sent a delegation since 1992.

And so, 22 years after, this is welcome news.

Given the distance between our nation and Sochi — plus the endless terror threats that surround the Games — I doubt it if any Cebuano will make the trek to Russia to watch the games as a spectator. But the great news is that the Winter Games will be
broadcast via TV5’s Sports 5 channel beginning 12 midnight on Feb. 8.

During the Opening Ceremony, with the Olympic flame burning amidst all the snow, I can imagine Pres. Putin saying...

From Russia, with love.

(john@pages.ph)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 30, 2014.

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