Behind the Sochi Olympics

The manager of the Kelowna Curling Club got a very different perspective of the recently concluded Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

In fact, Jock Tyre was so impressed he wants to return to the resort city when Formula One takes over the Olympic site.

Tyre was in Sochi as part of the Canadian Curling Association's 'Friends and Family' program - a job he also filled during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

"I take care of the friends and followers of the (curling) athletes," says Tyre.

While he only looked after 38 family members in Sochi compared to 92 in Vancouver, the job in Russia was more complex.

The group stayed in one hotel but he also had to help with passports, visa's, spectator passes, tickets for events and registration for Canada Olympic House.

"I went a year ahead to check out the area," says Tyre.

"Not only did I check out the hotel we were going to be staying at but I also spent a lot of time walking the neighbourhood finding things like pharmacies, doctor's offices, where the hospital was, how you take a bus, how you take a cab and the layout of the land. Also, different restaurants people would want to have to maybe get a bit of home."

He compared the region of Sochi to the Okanagan Valley. The region says Tyre is about 140km long with a population of 400,000.

"The people were awesome. By the time we got there security was all laid out and it was no more intrusive than going through an airport."

Tyre says Sochi did an amazing job hosting the games, however, not many people were there to see them.

"I think European and a lot of Western media scared people into not coming including a lot of hockey players. People don't really care when a luge guy says I'm not taking my wife but everybody seems to listen when an NHL player says I'm not taking my wife and my kids. Unfortunately people listened. If you went back and asked the players now they probably regret what they did," says Tyre.

"I know the Americans were told not to wear their jackets out there. There was no reason to be afraid. They weren't attacking Americans, they weren't even looking for Americans. There wasn't anything going on that way. Canadians wore their colours proudly over there. It was a safe environment."

When he wasn't busy with curling families Tyre did get a chance to visit a number of venues and spoke with several athletes and coaches.

He was also at Canada Olympic House when Russian leader Vladimir Putin paid an unscheduled visit.

"We were standing upstairs having a curling function and someone came up and said Oh My God, I just saw Putin. We got some video of him and photos of him and he was literally in the same building as us. He was very friendly and all accounts he came in, shook hands, let people close to him including one Canadian who jumped up and did a selfie with him."

Putting his curling hat on as a member of the Canadian Curling Association, Tyre says it was an honour to be in the curling facility to watch Canada win gold in both men's and women's curling.

He points out that not only was Canada the first country sweep both gold medals, but we are also the first nation to win gold in all four major team sports at the Olympics when you factor in both men's and women's hockey.

After working at the last two Winter Olympics Tyre says he would like to make the trip to South Korea in four years.

"I think I have a lot to give to it. You get better as you move on doing it."

Tyre says he thinks the games in Korea will be a lot different than those in Sochi partly because he doesn't believe NHL players will be taking part.

He says that will bode well for athletes in other sports.

"There will be a lot more attention to the other sports. Once the NHL players showed up the atmosphere changed and everybody was out searching for NHL players instead of looking at figure skating or luge or skeleton or curling," says Tyre.

"There isn't anything wrong with that but they're celebrities before hand. Most of the people over there for the Olympics aren't celebrities before the event, they're only celebrities around Olympic time and a short time after. They are all amazing athletes but it takes a lot away from the amateurs that are competing over there."


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