Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Non-Olympian "Thanks, Mom"

With a heavy heart I'm posting from Sochi with news my wonderful mother Betty entered hospice care in Oklahoma on Monday night. The news is surprising given her condition just two weeks ago was good. Writing in a fog.
 
Too many non-Games memories to share, but I will always love that Mom bought me the influential-to-seven-year-olds Lake Placid 1980 Olympic color book when I was in first grade, and she took my sister and I to the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Torch Relay in Edmond, Okla., the fifth-grade summer event that launched my Olympic journeys.
 
In 1989 we volunteered together at U.S. Olympic Festival '89, and the following summer she drove me to the 6 a.m. flight to Minneapolis for my first paid Olympic gig at U.S. Olympic Festival '90 (setting the course for my college days in the Land of 10,000 Lakes). Neither of us knew that flight would be the first of hundreds for this traveler (hard to know who had more nervous excitement).
 
It was Mom who first told me the 1990 news Atlanta won the 1996 Olympics, setting another course for nine Olympiads of fun. On Mother's Day 1996 she held the "runner flag" to start my leg of the Atlanta Olympic Torch Relay. 
 
Before and since her diagnosis of Alzheimer's in 2008, she always supported my five-ringed dreams and every dream. In her determined fight to slow down her condition, we shared dozens of walks and talks -- the above photo from one hike at Lake Arcadia near Edmond -- and it was so fun to show her around D.C., Atlanta and Savannah in recent years. As she did through years of working hard as a self-employed parent (her seamstress business boomed during the 1980s and 1990s in support of my sister's and my dreams), she continued to smile and laugh through each step of her declining condition.
 
I love you, Mom. Thank you, Mom. I will be home to Oklahoma on Friday, the soonest airlines could arrange passage from Sochi. Prayers appreciated for Mom, my dad and sister at her side, and for many family members, friends and caregivers helping mom. Fingers crossed the journey home will get me there safely and in a timely manner.
 
The blog will resume in due time. Thank you for reading and for support.
 
Photos by Nicholas Wolaver

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Notes on Olympic Presidential Selfies

The following post is in response to Yahoo! Fourth Place Medal's report on flak experienced by Team Canada's Brittany Schussler. I sent this post as a email to Kevin Kaduk, the reporter for the story:

Kevin: Hello in Sochi, where I'm attending the Games as a sponsor P.R. contact (freelance), Olympic blogger and fan.

In response to your story about Brittany Schussler's selfie with Putin, I'm writing to share some perspective as another person who snapped a selfie with the Russian President (see attached) on Feb. 10 at Sochi Media Center. This selfie ran in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Feb. 15.
 
Here at the Olympics, it's fair to say many North American attendees are no longer buying the party line back home that Russia and these Games are all politics, gloom and doom.

When Putin visited the Sochi Media Center proving a selfie opportunity for this writer, I was not thinking of gay rights, terrorism, nor any other fear-inspired mainstream message in the USA. I was thinking, "Wow! Here is a world leader, I'm at the Olympics, and this is really cool to witness history in person!"
 
I suspect Schussler's enthusiastic selfie and Tweet, like my own @NickWolaver, was in response to the adrenaline of the very exciting presidential visit to Canada House (we had the same energy next door at USA House, where I attempted a second presidential selfie).
Would anyone not feel the same if they had the opportunity to pose for a selfie with President Obama, any other world leader or Olympian? The crowd at Canada House was cheering and excited, and Schussler was caught up in the enthusiasm sans politics.
 
 
I can appreciate why some in North America are reacting as they are to Schussler's photo -- they are not "in the know" about the positive vibe at these Games that, as in Vancouver, Salt Lake or any other Olympic host city, is very upbeat, relaxed and fun. If they had more information or the first-hand experience on site in Sochi, they might not have such a strong reaction. 

 
Do I agree with Putin's politics? No. Would I pose for a selfie if again our paths cross in Sochi? Absolutely! And so should Brittany Schussler. We're at the Olympics, he's a world leader of the host nation, and the idea of the Olympics -- as cheesy or old-fashioned as it has become -- remains to put politics aside, if only temporarily.
 
Photos via Yahoo! screen grab from @BSchussler and by Nicholas Wolaver
 



 

Sochi-Milwaukee Trifecta

Some readers of this blog know my home base is Atlanta and home town/family are in Oklahoma.

Milwaukee is where my heart resides since my long-time girlfriend lives there in suburban Delafield, Wis.

Each time we drive by the Pettit National Ice Center in nearby West Allis, there's a five-ringed reminder of Milwaukee's ties to the Winter Olympics.

And it's good to see the Journal-Sentinel's Gary D'Amato in Sochi after shaking hands at the Team USA Media Summit last year.

The Sochi Games includes 15 Wisconsin Olympians, according to this Carnival Cruise Lines gallery of U.S. athletes (see photo atop this post).


The last 24 hours in Sochi yielded a trifecta of other big Milwaukee-in-Sochi connections.

Through our work for the Citi Every Step of the Way program, on Friday we hosted media at USA House to speak with speedskating Olympic Champion Dan Jansen. With a few clicks, anyone may support his charity of choice, Olympians For Olympians, and it was fun to learn more about his Sochi experience and current projects in the Carolinas.

Later that evening, another Milwaukee hero and a personal favorite athlete from Calgary, Albertville and Lillehammer -- Bonnie Blair -- arrived and cheerfully visited with colleagues, friends and fans.

After spotting Blair in the Vancouver Olympic Village in 2010 (she was so friendly then, too), I was very happy to help her snap a few photos with members of the Kellogg's team (for which I am a freelance contributor) who gave an enthusiastic Blair her own Tony the Tiger hat and mittens.

Visiting with Blair I learned she now resides only a mile from my girlfriend, and we've both frequented the same grocers, pizza parlor and Delafield steakhouse -- unbelievable!

Blair also wants folks to know she is new to Twitter and loving it. And her sister's favorite cereal is Frosted Flakes because "They're Gr8!"

Then came the most surprising Milwaukee-Sochi moment, this time with a Grammy Award winning jazz musician.

With the Cultural Olympiad underway across Sochi, the centrally located Winter Theater -- a 75-year-old historic venue at which the International Olympic Committee Session took place -- hosted a Russia-USA cultural exchange concert tied to the U.S. Department of State.

The theatre is down the road from my hotel, so I bought a ticket and enjoyed a great balcony seat similar to the upper rows of Milwaukee's historic Pabst Theater.

Between songs, Milwaukee-born jazz trumpeter Brian Lynch introduced his band then gave a shout-out to Wisconsin.

His on-stage expression was surprise and smiles when the mostly Russian audience reacted to my cheer of "Go Milwaukee!" from the back row.

Who knew two would-be cheese-head Americans were in the house?

We both learned later a young couple from Chattanooga, Tenn., also attended.

After the show, which included mostly new works by Lynch set to debut in a stateside tour this spring, Lynch posed for photos and spoke with a few reporters, sharing that his agent got the call about the Sochi gig awhile ago but he did not plan to attend Olympic events (according to his website he has a Moscow concert on Monday). We agreed to connect again in Wisconsin, and jazz fans there are in for a treat.

Only at the Olympics do these connections seem common and "normal." It will be fun to see a fellow Georgian, bobsleigh Olympic bronze medalist Elana Meyers, compete later this week.

No Oklahoma athletes spotted yet, but on the lookout. Borrowing from Lynch's catalog, "It Could Be" there is one Okie athlete somewhere in Sochi.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver


Saturday, February 15, 2014

From Russia With Love

Valentine's Day in the Olympic City was lovely though work-filled before a little bit of fun.

It was great to see the Russian President for the third time in a week when Putin visited USA House, this time all-smiles (he also visited neighboring Canada House).

As they say in the musical from my home state, if we keep meeting like this, "People Will Say We're In Love."

The media relations team for Citi (for which I am contributing a few freelance hours) worked through a busy day of interviews for athletes Evan Lysacek, Erin Hamlin and Dan Jansen to discuss the Citi Every Step program.

My main media hit du jour was with The Weather Channel whose producers invited Lysacek to discuss the men's figure skating finalists.

It was good to see Al Roker again (I only seem to visit his set during the Winter Olympics, starting with Roker's visit to B.C. Canada Place in Torino).

The Weather Channel's on-screen set is in "The Hollywood Squares" media platform near the Olympic Cauldron, and as we exited Evan's Weather interview several other NBC affiliates confirmed on-the-spot interview requests -- a golden afternoon for any Olympic publicist.

Later, back at USA House, I spoke with Lysacek and Hamlin about wardrobe malfunctions for the Winter Games, and their comments are included in the following post written as the next Glam.com contribution submitted for approval:

You’re a Winter Olympian who reached the pinnacle of your sports career. You have the world on a string!

But what’s to be done when the string on your competition uniform starts to unravel? You don’t want to destroy this sweater!

Wardrobe malfunctions are a reality for elite athletes in Sochi.


Photo via AFP/ScanPix
There are self-inflicted costume issues. Russian speedskater Olga Graf was so elated after earning a medal she unzipped her suit to reveal her “commando” competition style during the first week of the Games.

The word on the street is some of Jamaica’s bobsled team gear wound up in Australia rather than Sochi. Lesson to future Olympians: Pack official gear in carry-on luggage.

Aside from human errors in Olympic attire, according to some Team USA athletes, the accidental wardrobe malfunction can take place in any sport, often at the worst possible time. Who could forget Tanya Harding’s laces going bad in Lillehammer?

During a walk between venues in Sochi, Olympic champion figure skater Evan Lysacek said tears, rips or split pants are the most common for male skater wardrobe woes, while for women’s figure skaters, shoulder strap breaks or the slip of a low-cut top are issues for some. Though Lysacek said he never suffered a wardrobe malfunction of his own, he witnessed a few athletes work through quick fixes.

“I’ve seen others make a quick change,” said Lysacek. “You have to be prepared for anything.”

You’d think that with a custom-designed costume costing thousands of dollars, the expensive threads might stay in one piece and on the athlete.

“I worked with Vera Wang on all of my costumes,” said Lysacek. “They were all one-of-a-kind designs but they fit within with just an inch [of adjustability].”

Lysacek added that Wang personally designed and fitted his uniforms, a special experience with the added benefit of minimizing potential problems.

Sled athletes also face winter wardrobe malfunctions.

Luge Olympic medalist Erin Hamlin, who earned a bronze for Team USA, said in her third sliding run in Sochi she noticed a problem with her “bootie” – her competition shoes.

“They can break and the problem can definitely affect your slide, [so] I always have extras just in case,” said Hamlin. “Though in our sport our scores are not affected by the [cosmetic] design of the uniform, there are other factors that can affect speed for which we are judged.”

Both Hamlin and Lysacek are athletes for Citi Every Step, an Olympic-related program through which athletes invite fans to click their shared support of non-profit sport initiatives. Hamlin is supporting  USA Luge Slider Search while Lysacek designated Figure Skating In Harlem to receive benefits when fans click to direct Citi funds (disclosure: Citi Every Step is a client for which this Glam.com contributor is providing freelance P.R. counsel in Sochi).

Illustrating Hamlin’s remarks about uniforms and speed, perhaps the worst type of wardrobe malfunction in Sochi is a technical one. On Saturday, U.S. Speedskating announced their athletes want to stop using the 2014 Under Armour-designed suits, now blamed for less-than-stellar times in a sport for which thousandths of a second determine medalists.

At least the speedskaters uniforms weren’t like the see-through yoga pants that earned headlines in 2013.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver except the Olga Graf image via AFP

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Olympic Blogger Version of Fergie's "Glamourous"

Opportunity knocked a few weeks ago when my great friend and fellow summer '95 U.S. Olympic Committee intern Amy, now a bigwig at Glam.com, invited me to submit a few five-ringed fashion stories from Sochi.

The first of these -- under the headline "Ski Devil Wears Prada" -- features observations about Olympic Champion Bode Miller and his footwear, as seen at the Team USA Media Summit last fall.

Not since Fergie's hit song has it felt so glamorous for this blogger.

My fashion sense begins and ends with the latest Docker's slacks and embroidered Olympic host city polo shirts (not necessarily the Ralph Lauren kind), so I greatly appreciate the Glam.com opportunity and vow to have fun with it.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver



Hailed a cab last night in Sochi and shook hands with the Armenian driver.

When asked his name he said, "Robert" to which I replied, "... Like Redford, Plant or De Niro?"

Without missing a beat he stared at me with stern look, pointed and said, "You talking to me?"

Most surprising taxi driver so far!
 
There's a surprise around many turns here. On Wednesday the temperatures approached 60 degrees, I found a sushi restaurant and discovered potato chips marked like sour cream and onion are actually dill pickle-flavored (tasty).
 
Thursday was another warm day, and though there was not yet time to try it, the spa in my hotel offers a foot soaking treatment through which flesh-eating minnows go to town on the callouses for one's heels and toes.
 
Olympic pin trading is gaining steam, and about twice a day fellow American tourists and I cross paths and swap stories about the Sochi commute. It's amazing how clean it is on the train, in the venues and all over the city -- I have yet to find serious litter, even at the end of a sold-out event with the rowdiest of crowds. The train is so quiet and smooth (and spotless) people nod off and fellow passengers nudge them at the end of the line.
 
Downtown Sochi features a European-style pedestrian park (gorgeous), mini-zoo (there are monkeys
on display just outside my hotel) and urban views of the Black Sea reminiscent of Milwaukee's hilltops overlooking Lake Michigan.
 
One aviary mystery here: How many tens of thousands of birds are in the black cloud flock 500 yards off-shore? (Seriously, it looks like the Hitchcock film when the black birds churn the water.)
 
The train station is a 1950s design with a clock featuring the zodiac tracked by month.
 
Valentine's Day should be interesting. I have a ticket to skeleton competition but need to sell it as a work project will have our P.R. team taking a couple of athletes to The Weather Channel studio in Olympic park for an interview with Al Roker.
 
It's the mid-point of the journey and all is well.
 
Photos by Nicholas Wolaver
 


 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Jumping For Joy

Tonight at Russki Gorki Ski Jumping Center, high above the Black Sea in the Caucasus Mountains, 30 women jumped for joy and into the Olympic history books.

Following years of failed attempts to gain five-ringed status, women's ski jump at last debuted at Sochi. The evening included many surprises.

On my first trek to the Mountain Cluster of venues, the train ride from Sochi was quiet but a bit longer than anticipated (90 minutes).

It was surprising to discover my seat-mates, a Sochi-born grandmother-mother duo heading to meet grandchildren at the venue, have family in Dallas, and we've both eaten steaks in the same Fort Worth restaurant.

Until arriving, I had no idea Russki Gorki's train station connected to a towering gondola lift. The ride up was smooth though not for the faint of heart.

Making new friends or crossing paths with Games-time colleagues was another enjoyable surprise. Even the venue dining (I ordered a crepe with ham and cheese sold as a "pancake with meat") was tasty.

Though Sochi is my fourth Winter Games, this was my first experience at ski jump unless you count watching reruns of Roger Moore's chase scene in "For Your Eyes Only." Tonight's event ticket was the first Sochi event for which I purchased access, based on Team USA's outstanding record in the sport.

There were some fellow-Americans on site to cheer on Sarah Hendrickson, Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome, and after meeting all three of these brave young women during the Team USA Media Summit last October, cheering their daring feats -- launching themselves dozens of feet off the side of a mountain at great speed -- felt a bit more personal.

It surprised me neither Van Halen nor Kriss-Kross music played to warm up the crowd who danced to other tunes, as much for fun as to keep warm (we were, after all, in the Russian Rockies).

Though disappointed that Team USA's trio did not make the medal stand this time, when the top three jumpers' results emerged, I instantaneously thought "next time" and it won't surprise me to find Hendrickson, Jerome and Van in competition now through 2018 and beyond.

As the winners completed their final jumps, I spotted Hendrickson, already partially changed out of her jumping gear, in the "family access" area embracing her boyfriend and wiping away tears of acceptance that this was just not her night. After months of recovery from injury, odds were not in her favor.

The surprise gold medalist and her reaction to her final score brought the second-to-last surprise du jour.

When Germany's victor slid into the waiting area for the judges marks, and they flashed her winning result, the jumper fell to her knees crying with joy and disbelief. It took three teammates to help her stand again for the cheering crowd.

I had not seen such candid gold medal emotion since some of the slow-motion reactions captured in Bud Greenspan's series "16 Days of Glory."
Bravo to the winner and all of the medalists and athletes!
Moments later, as Hendrickson made her way down media row for the inevitable questions about "what happened?," it was good to see her smiling again with misty but not tear-filled eyes, perhaps a sign she is already thinking of the possibilities for victory in Korea in four years.

Here's hoping she and all of tonight's competitors may again be jumping for joy and history in 2018.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver

Monday, February 10, 2014

Putin on the Blitz!


Some days you go to the office expecting the same-old-same old.

On Monday in my "remote office" at Sochi Media Center, things were mostly routine. Except for the part when Russian President Vladimir Putin stopped by for a speedy tour.

That's right: Putin ... on the blitz!
With a surprisingly sparse security detail and motorcade, Putin arrived at Sochi Media Center, handed his coat to a greeter then strolled on in to the main press room for a look at the scene.

Escorted by a local official (I assume a minister of tourism for Sochi), and accompanied by Sochi's Mayor and Olympic Champion Aleksandr "The Great" Karelin, the Russian president listened carefully to details about the Center -- one of the best unaccredited media centers in Games history (sadly underused by Western media outlets -- once again, I was the lone USA contact with one Canadian gentleman bearing credentials).

As throngs of working media were suddenly aware of Putin's presence, TV and still camera teams rushed to surround Putin, encircling his tour about 15 rows deep.

The president spoke for a couple of minutes, answering just two impromptu media questions, then turned with his hostess to walk back to toward the entry point.

Through all of this, I was tipped by a college student media center volunteer to stand at a fixed point back from the throngs of camera women and men.

I complied to earn a most excellent payoff of three very close -- shake hands close -- photos of President Putin.

It was tempting to offer him a lapel pin for this blog, but the security detail and fears of Siberian GULag served as a deterrent.

Hey, here's a guy happy with his photos.

So happy, in fact, moments later I moved quickly to a prime spot for creating a Presidential #SochiSelfie.

As predicted, Putin turned and stopped to view a working model of the Coastal Cluster to be retrofitted for Indy racing in October.
Putin sternly looked at the miniature Olympic city then disappeared to the third floor press conference room for a private meeting with members of the Russian Presidential Press Corps.

Were the room's two North American reporters able to attend? Nyet -- Russians only. Oh, well.

Two surprises emerged about Putin the man.

First, he is not tall, only an inch or two above five feet in dress shoes. Also, he does smile, and he did so several times on the closed-circuit broadcast (sans audio) of his private meeting.

Putin also beamed during his waving exit and return to a simpler-than-anticipated motorcade featuring just three vehicles (an unusual limousine and two extended vans) and one police escort, leaving behind Karelin and the Sochi mayor.

When Karelin next turned his attention to souvenir shopping at the Sochi Media Center store, I did approach him offering an Olympic blog lapel pin, congratulations on his achievements (most recently as Olympic Torchbearer at Fisht Stadium Friday night) and my awe.

This guy is HUGE, and as a former USA Wrestling intern long-aware of his five-ringed feats in Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney, I was most appreciative of Karelin shaking hands (his are bear-sized, strong like bull), visiting briefly and posing for a photo before he presented me with a commemorative Sochi.Ru 2014 keychain. Too Great!

One of my first reporting assignments in college involved trekking to Minneapolis for President Clinton's 1992 healthcare reform visit.

Monday's presidential reporting experience was absolutely nothing like the USA version, and I kind of liked it. I liked it a lot.

Only at the Olympics!

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Gracie Gold: A Woman On The Move (And On Her iPhone)

My introduction to Gracie Gold took place during the Team USA Olympic Media Summit in Park City, in October.

The 18 year old originally from Newton, Mass., spoke to attendees and performed a skating demonstration, dazzling the crowd who would report on her rising star status as Olympic hopeful.

After seeing her pre-season skate that evening in Utah, it was no surprise Gold emerged the U.S. national champion a few weeks ago.

Here's a young woman on the move.

At least I think it was Gracie on the ice that night -- turns out she has a twin sister, Carly, who also skates at the senior level.

Gold's bio notes in the media summit press book note she aspires to be an orthodontist after her skating career, putting her on a similar track to another U.S. Figure Skating Olympian, Debi Thomas (now a physician).

I haven't yet spotted Gold in Sochi but look forward to the figure skating event on Feb. 19, which will be the last event of these Games for which I have a ticket.

It will be fun to experience first-hand the escalating on-ice competitiveness for Gold, her U.S. teammate Ashley Wagner and the Russian media and skating darling Julia cover girl turned Olympic gold medalist via the team figure skating competition earlier today (wish I'd been there).
Lipnitskaia, Time magazine's European edition

All three of the aforementioned skaters better watch out for reigning Olympic champion Kim Yuna of Korea. She put on a spectacular performance in Vancouver (I was there and it was surprising), and with PyeongChang 2018 on the horizon methinks Yuna has a lot at skate, er, stake.

Who is your favorite in the women's figure skating competition? Please vote in the poll along the right column of this blog (failing to cast a ballot puts everyone on thin ice).

Gracie Gold photos by Nicholas Wolaver except Sochi 2014 image via USA Today; Julia Lipnitskaia photo via EPA/Barbara Walton; Kim Yuna photo via Olympics.org

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dreams of Russia -- Opening Ceremony

Did you love the Sochi Olympic Opening Ceremony as I did? Spectacular!

Inside the venue Friday night, a duo of Russian celebrities took turns warming up the crowd, showing everyone how to don our "Olympic medal lights" (providing a Roy Lichtenstein-like dots of light across all in attendance). We also learned how to count down in a whisper the final seconds before the magic moment the action would begin: 7 Feb at 20:14 (8:14 p.m. Sochi time).

Impressive were the performances of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" by a group of police, and a gorgeous traditional Russian folk song "Oy Da Nye Vecher" performed by Pelageya, perhaps Russia's answer to Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" performed in Vancouver. Not a dry eye in my section.

Seated on row five in a corner used for staging performers, most of my neighbors were Russian. It was fun to meet the nearby mother of a Team USA athlete who scored a last-minute ticket to view her daughter's march into the venue.

In the 24 hours since the Olympic Stadium main event, I remain impressed with all the history learned or reinforced by the presentation titled "Dreams of Russia." The music -- classical and techno -- sent me searching for many tunes online.

There was a friendly, "Sesame Street" quality to the "Russian Alphabet/Azbuka" segment, the glow-in-the-dark fur vests to create the Russian flag stood out, and the massive projection effects to turn the floor into maps, oceans and constellations -- brilliant!

The white horses running across the sky, and the construction of Soviet-era Moscow also impressed me.

It pleases me that New York Times reporter David Herszenhorn provided a very balanced to positive review of the experience (he nailed it!), praising the event's most remarkable and memorable details while noting, but not drawing undue attention to, a couple of glitches that other U.S. media continue to report.

Given the surprise "selfie" photo with her on Thursday, it also pleased me Maria Sharapova carried the Olympic torch into the stadium. She was beaming!

Standing beneath the ignited Sochi Olympic Cauldron at Olympic Park after the show, the warmth from the flame was appreciated (inside the venue it was in the 40s Fahrenheit).

I will now have many new Dreams of Russia.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Right Place, Right Time

Sochi is buzzing now. Foot traffic is getting crowded with more international team jackets and fans with flags.

After putting in a few hours at Sochi Media Center, where attendees were treated to a visit by a historic Russian Folk Group (among them a designated octogenarian Olympic Torchbearer), on Thursday I trekked over to the Coastal Cluster of venues for my first look at the Olympic Stadium.

A-MAZE-ING!

Another reason for the seaside train ride was to retrieve Day Passes to volunteer at the Coca-Cola Olympic Pin Trading Center inside the Team Russia House, a massive and very cool activity center for fans of all ages and nationalities. While inside, word spread that Olympic silver medalist Maria Sharapova would visit with a crew from NBC to film her experience at the venue. Hello!

Readers of this blog may recall the fortunate series of events leading to Sharapova's Olympic tennis final with Serena Williams at Wimbledon. And who could forget the flag ceremony video captured there?

Since capturing many action shots of both players that day in London, I've looked forward to another opportunity to speak with the Russian tennis star, icon and founder of the candy enterprise named Sugarpova.

How sweet it was to spot Maria flanked with a dozen NBC camera, sound, editing and production team members and a legion of fans with cameras like mine fixed on Sharapova, who professionally worked through her taped interviews (set to air during the Opening Ceremony tomorrow via NBC). She also graciously signed autographs for Olympic volunteers.

Then it happened -- a pin collector (not me, but Pete C., in the photo) shouted out to Sharapova those words only a pinhead can proudly exclaim ... "want to trade a pin?"

Apologetically, Sharapova declined with a smile, stating "Sorry, I don't have any pins to trade" over the heads of the entourage.

Enter Nick Wolaver, a.k.a. Johnny on the Spot, with a hot-off-the-press Olympic blog pin and business card.

Sharapova accepted my pin offer and others' then proceeded to complete the pin trade (for fun, note the person she traded with already is wearing one of my blog pins in the photo).

Sharapova, therefore, held on to the pin this blogger gave to her, and only time will tell whether it may lead her back to this site and/or post. As you may concur from the images below, the tennis great is holding an "Olympic Rings And Other Things" business card and pin during the post-trade NBC filming.

Moments later, at the conclusion of her official NBC taping duties, I showed Sharapova my camera and the action shot photographed in London (shown above, with this post).

She said, "O.K." to a 'selfie' pose beside me, and voila! the serendipitous Olympic Park experience du jour was over.

I'm so appreciative of Sharapova's kind response there is no time to frown that the 'selfie' only has my partial forehead, eyewear and cheek. Besides, I have that photo with the octogenarian Olympic Torchbearer to keep me company.

LOVING the Olympics!

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver are copyright Nicholas Wolaver not to be reproduced without written permission


 



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