Melbourne, FL, December 28, 2013 – On February 7th, 2014, all eyes will be on Sochi, Russia. With the XXII Winter Olympic Games only a short 41 days away, the athletes are going through their final training days preparing themselves for their day in the spotlight. This takes me back to 1984 Winter Olympic games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia when I traveled to the games by train with my buddy Scott Dean from Heidelberg, Germany. It was a whirlwind adventure that included an afternoon with John Blackstone, CBS Reporter, and his news crew who were covering the these Olympic games from the visitor prospective.
At that time Scott and I were both non-commissioned officers in the USAF assigned to the 4th Allied Tactical Air Force detachment at Campbell Barracks. Campbell Barracks was the headquarters of the Central Army Group, a NATO organization, who’s responsibility it was to defend the southern half of the Federal Republic of Germany. 4 ATAF commanded all flying units based within its sector and all reinforcements flying into its sector, as well as ground based radar systems and stations, air defense units and the airfields in its sector (Wikipedia).
We purchased our tour package from our local Moral and Welfare Office which included tickets to two events. We chose one of the many downhill ski events and a preliminary USA hockey match. We traveled through the night from Heidelberg to Munich to Skofja Loka, Yugoslavia by bus and on to Ljubljana, Banja Luka to Sarajevo by train. Scott and I saw the hockey match but got snowed out by too much snow that cancelled our downhill event. Instead we went into Sarajevo to shop for Olympic pins and Slivovitz, a plum brandy sometimes called Rakia. While we combed the streets and back allies of Sarajevo, we came across the CBS news crew who explained to us their mission was to interview Americans in Sarajevo enjoying the Olympic Games. John Blackstone asked us if they could follow us around and film what we were doing. They even filmed us eating lunch. The film of Scott and me aired on the CBS Evening News for Saturday, 11, 1984. As best as I can remember, in the film Scott was practicing his local dialect and I commented, during lunch, how good he food smelled. Meretta Schmidt, Iris Zimmerman and Chuck Stathim, who were also in the film clip, spoke about enjoying Sarajevo. Scott and I had a great time in Sarajevo with memories we still talk about today.
This time of the year is special to me when the summer and winter Olympics games have arrived. It is a time when I can add another Olympic hat and Olympic pins to my growing collection. I have always been a pin collector as far back as I can remember. My pin collecting really picking up speed when I lived in Tampa in 1974 when Walt Disney World opened. Today, I have more than 20 baseball hats with all kinds of pins attached.
The typical current Olympic pin costs in the $8.99 - $12.00 range with special event pins costing close to $25.00. You can get Sochi 2014 pins on the NBC, Team USA, Fanatics, Classic Pins, and on Ebay. If you can resist the urge to get you pins before and during the games, pins from past Olympics can be found on sale for as low as $1.49 on the Fanatics’ web site. Fanatics is currently running a big sale with an extra 25% off the sale price.
The winter games in Sochi are going to be interesting to say the least. With another bus explosion that killed at least 14 people and wounded another 28 in Volgograd, Russian today which makes this the 3rd deadly attack in four days, the Sochi Winter Games may be in for a very rocky ride. I hope we do not end up with another 1972 Munich Olympic massacre when 11 Israeli weightlifters were killed by Arab terrorist.
As you watch the 2014 Winter Olympic Games from Sochi, Russia, dust off your skies, snowboards, ice skates and hockey equipment because there is more winter to enjoy in the great outdoors.
Until next time, be safe in the sun and have a great day in the great outdoors.