I was listening to WWJ’s “On this Day in History” feature, where it was reported that on this date in 1968 Peggy Fleming was awarded a gold medal in figure skating. That factoid sure took me back a few years. I can still picture her graceful performance and her simple skating costume, with none of the frills and flourish of the modern-day competitors’ outfits. Peggy Fleming was a sheer delight to watch as she swirled and twirled making her routine look like child’s play. Didn’t we all want to take lessons at the local ice skating rink to be just like our idol? I remember, as a pre-teen, I was in awe of Peggy Fleming, especially since as a kid I was clumsy on the double-bladed skates at the Oakville Arena, and in later years my white, lace-up boot skates spent more in the box in the basement, then they ever did on my feet. But a girl can dream … I was surprised to learn Peggy Fleming received the only gold medal awarded to the U.S. at the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France.
Other than listening to snippets of the Olympic coverage and the daily medals tally, or watching the occasional video featured on Comcast, I must confess I am not really all that interested in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. I am unfamiliar with any of the athletes who are competing and there are alot of the extreme sports events that I’m not interested in either. My favorite Winter Olympic events were always the individual men’s and women’s figure skating . For years my mom and I followed all the qualifying and championship events leading up to the Olympics, so in those days, anyway, we were familiar with the athletes. We followed the “Battle of the Brians” with Brian Orser and Brian Boitano in the men’s figure skating events, though we vacillated as to whom to root for – our homeland contender or the U.S. favorite. We also liked hometown boy Kurt Browning. Our favorite young women skaters were Katarina Witt, Debi Thomas, Nancy Kerrigan and also Kristy Yamaguchi and we followed their respective careers for years, until all these figure skaters got older, retired or turned pro, then we gradually just stopped following ice-skating competitions altogether.
I suppose now that we’ve finished the third day of the Games, the horror stories of tandem toilets, brownish drinking water and unfinished accommodations are old news. I must meddle into these tales recounting the Sochi hotel accommodations which I found a tad amusing when they first started surfacing a week or so ago. When I booked a 1983 tour, which included Russia, all members of our Maupintour group received countless pamphlets forewarning us of the rather primitive hotel accommodations and that we should be prepared to spend our six days in Russia in a nice hotel, but without any amenities that we were accustomed to in the U.S. We were told that we should purchase bottled water at the hotel to drink or use to brush our teeth since the water was unfit. It was suggested that we take sink stoppers with us as the sinks might just be a ceramic basin with large, open drainage holes. We were advised the toilet paper was scratchy and perhaps we ought to slip a box of Kleenex into our suitcases. Our tour group arrived in Leningrad by way of train from Helsinki and we were immediately taken to our hotel to drop off luggage and freshen up before dinner and a quick bus tour of the City. Though we were forewarned about our rooms, it turned out to be a five-star hotel, with a king-sized bed and large-screen TV (before they were popular) and large buckets filled with ice where bottles of Coke, juice or water were chilling just ready to grab. As to the primitive bathroom … it was huge, with gilded faucets which ran crystal-clear water. There were long, marble-topped vanities on either side of the bathroom with Hollywood vanity mirrors, heating elements from the ceiling and floor to warm you from top to toe, a huge spa-like tub, heated towel stands, soft lights and music piped in. There were no tandem toilets and no toilet paper that looked like rough paper towel either! All the propaganda and hype were quickly forgotten at this hotel and likewise three days later when we arrived in Moscow. What a misnomer from all the info the travel agent suggested when the tour was booked, or the travel “suggestions” we received in advance. It was the most-fantastic leg of the three-week tour which included the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark as well. My mother had a saying that she taught me ever since I was a young girl: “believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear” … good words which still ring true today. Above is a picture of yours truly in Moscow on the day we arrived. I’m glad my world-wide travelling days were done in less-trying times, when the biggest obstacles were deciding how many pieces of camera equipment to tote along on each excursion. Nowadays you can simply take a small digital camera or use your phone’s camera and be done with it. I lugged lenses, filters, rolls of extra film and a bulky camera bag, plus slung a heavy SLR Canon camera around my neck to capture the experience onto film. Now the visitors and athletes in Sochi will tell their tale with “selfies” and phone camera videos for years to come. Go Team U.S.A.!