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2014 Winter Olympics

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2014 Sochi Olympic Games: How working far from home can affect a marriage.

the Olympic flame
the Olympic flame
Al Wylie

The Olympic games are a time where the whole world comes together for the love of sport. Entire countries come together to support and cheer on our athletes. We hear a lot of coverage about our Olympic athletes, their families, and their road to the games. But, what about the people behind the productions? The hard working people who make the Olympics come to life on your screens?

Al is an Associate Director for CBC Television and is presently assigned as a Floor Director at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in the CBC broadcast studios. He will be there for one full month leaving his wife Kim at home to hold down the fort. I got the chance to chat with Al and Kim, a married couple from Toronto,Ontario,Canada, about their Olympic experience.

"This is the longest period of time I have ever travelled away from home for work or anything else. When I was in Beijing for work that was about a three week period." says Al. "My experience so far has been great. There definitely are differences between Toronto and Sochi. The primary difference that one immediately experiences is the warmer weather. It's a great break for Canadians like myself who were already fed up with the severe cold this winter. The time difference between the two countries had a big impact on me. We are 9 hours ahead of time in Sochi so with the time difference it took about 5 days for me to completely balance out. Since then I have had normal sleeping patterns. Hours are long and I work here from about 2:30 pm until 1 am. Sometimes longer so I rarely get to bed before 3:30 am. Of course I will have to get back on track all over again when I return home."

An amazing opportunity for Al, that's for sure! But, what about Kim who is at their home in Toronto? I asked her what the separation has been like so far and here is what she had to say, "Since Al and I got together we have had many separations with work and family illness. We have chosen careers that involve travel and long hours and accept the time we spend apart. I am happy that he has this opportunity and encourage new life experiences for him as he does for me. I am busy and we have constant daily contact, so it isn't like I am sitting around pining. I know he is coming back with lots of interesting experiences to share and I look forward to that.

The only difference is that he is not home to sleep at night. When we are on opposite shifts we stay in contact as we are doing now. We share responsibilities like dog care, groceries, laundry to make sure that the house runs smoothly. We relish our time spent together, so now I am endeavouring to do those household organizing chores that I would otherwise put on the backburner if Al was here, in favour of spending time with him. I'd much rather watch a movie and have chuckles with Al than clean my closet out. My closet is very tidy now."

Distance makes the heart grow fonder, or so we are told. What kind of an affect does distance play in a relationship? I ask Al about what he thinks, "What I take away from this Olympic experience in terms of our relationship is that it confirms it is rock solid. That either of us can go away and the household will continue to be managed and the person who has been away will return to a loving home. It is all reassuring when so much of what we do is a constant balancing act. The Olympic experience really hasn't had any effect on us other than I have worked a lot of overtime and I hope to turn that around into extended vacation time with Kim."

Kim had something quite similar to say, "Al and I are solid; this separation really doesn't affect us. We love what we do and respect each other enough to allow each other the freedom to pursue our dreams and take advantage of the good things that come along. I don't think either of us would be happy together if we made each other feel bad or guilty for time spent apart. We look forward to celebrating and sharing stories when he returns. Daily contact is the best, he sends me beautifully written letters and photos. I send him updates on my activites and silly videos of the dog and fish. We have been separated before but technology now is so great, daily contact is a breeze. I also know I can phone him if I need to."

Prior to the games, the news was filled with stories about the dangers of Sochi. Wide spread controversy about possible terrorism threats rocked our televisions and radio stations daily before the opening ceremony. Nothing of the sort has happened as of yet but the thought that there is even a possibility of something happening can take it's toll on athletes, families, organizers and the world. I spoke to Al about his thoughts on this situation and how he handled it, "In the news before I left for SochI there was a lot of concern for general safety, acts of terrorism, etc. It was also necessary for me to take a couple of mandatory online courses on safety and what to do if you are kidnapped. In addition to that I have never had so many people tell me to be 'safe' before I left. A few told me flatly I was crazy to go. But Kim never said anything of the kind. She was supportive. But I was candid with Kim and family that this trip was different. For the first time ever, before I went away I was getting things in place in case I did not return. Security here continues to be tight." he says.

Kim also had some input on the subject. Here is what she had to say, "I think the media plays on people's fears. If it were truly a dangerous situation the games would have been cancelled. Al received excellent training through CBC on potentially dangerous situations and I know that he would not put himself in a bad place. As with his trip to Beijing he prepared me with information should something bad happen. This is a good thing; all couples should be aware of what to do in case the other passes. One cannot get all bent out of shape when discussing these things, it is just the smart thing to do at any age."

When asked what they miss the most our couple had very similar things to say. "I miss the laughs, the hugs and cooking for him. There are certain tv shows that I just wont watch without him so we can laugh, be shocked, learn something together. I miss our dining out extravaganzas." says Kim.

Al says, "I miss seeing her beautiful face every day and her hugs. We like to hug. And talking about our day and making plans to do things together."

Separated for a full month, but still as strong as ever. Al and Kim will be celebrating their 10 year wedding anniversary upon Al's return from Sochi. This couple is a great example of how love and companionship can overcome great obstacles, as long as we take a step back and think of them less as obstacles and more as great opportunities.

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