Looking back at Sochi

The then Chairman of the Bucks Legacy Board, Carl Etholen, went to Sochi in 2014 along with torchbearers Gemma Collis and Andy White. Here were his reports from the Games.

March 10

The day of departure.  Pick up at 11am (7am GMT)  from the Hotel to the airport for the flight back to Moscow which was delayed and arrived in Moscow at 5pm (1pm GMT). Craig and Gemma stayed on in Moscow for some educational visits organised by the Foreign Office and are due to return on 12th March, whilst Andy and Carl boarded a flight back to London arriving at Heathrow at 19.35 (GMT)

March 9

As Carl had not visited the Alpine Resort as yet and as it was in effect the last day, Carl headed for the Mountains whilst Craig, Gemma and Andy headed  to the Olympic Park to watch Team GB Mens Curling  team.

In the mountains, Carl saw the Mens Super G Visually impaired downhill skiing and Mens Super G  sitting.

From there  having met Mr Duane Kale from the IPC in New Zealand last Wednesday,  Carl was invited to accompany him  on 2 cable cars to  see the venue where the Biathlon takes place. As time was against us, we descended , Carl was invited into the Australian and United States Paralympic Association joint reception prior to the Medals ceremony at Rosa Khutor Medals Plaza.


March 8

Due to  different invitations in the morning, Craig , Gemma and Andy went to the Alpine Resort and saw the first downhill skiing whilst Carl was invited to the Visa Paralympic Hall of Fame, where 2 retired Paralympian  visually impaired downhill skiers( Eric Villalon( ESP) and Verena Betele (GER) and one retired coach Join Kreamelmeyer( USA) were inductees   for their  outstanding achievements within the sport.

From there Carl took a bus to the Olympic Park where he sat down and watched the Ice Sledge Hockey  in the Shayba Stadium with a match between Canada and Sweden. A result of 10-1 to Canada. The atmosphere was electric with Ice Hockey being played to the full with a few players being sin binned.

Carl was then joined by the others to go to the Ice Cube and watch several Curling matches before  Carl and Andy headed back . Gemma and Craig went onto go and watch Ice Sledge Hockey at 8pm with a match between Russia and Korea and who should be directly below Gemma and Craig this time but a Russian called Vladimir Putin. Result was 2-2 with Korea winning on penalties.

March 7


The countdown has nearly come to an end with the official opening of the Sochi Paralympic Winter Games this evening.

An early breakfast at 7am saw the four of  us  board a bus back to the Sochi  Zimni Theatre at 8am when it was the turn of Andy who was to be one of the torch bearers but on a different route to Gemma yesterday. Andy had pre-purchased his torch and received a certificate which Gemma had also been given yesterday.

Arrived back at base at 1pm Local time( 9am GMT), a quick change and rush to an official lunch hosted by the British Paralympic Association for athletes, friends, families, partners, and sponsors including Channel 4  who will be broadcasting over 150 hours from Sochi - although the Winter Athletes did not attend as they are busy training in the Mountains.

Pick up at 6.15 pm ( local time)  2.15pm ( GMT)  for transport to the Olympic Park with live coverage on Channel 4 from 3.30pm GMT.

March 6

After breakfast, we travelled to the centre of Sochi and to a rendezvous at the Old Theatre Zimni where Gemma was issued with her uniform for the Torch relay, some instruction for the transfer of the flame and how to hold the torch. Then off she went from the theatre to rapturous  applause  from the organisers, volunteers and all the people who lined the streets.

Upon Gemma's return, we headed back to the Paralympic Family Hotel, the Ayvazovsky Hotel, when it was decided that Gemma, Craig and myself went exploring to the Olympic Park, while Andy who was not feeling too good, retired to his room.

Having seen the Olympic Park on the television a few weeks ago, we did not appreciate the magnitude of it. Having covered several miles, at 3.30pm, we decided that it would take nearly 1 and half hours to return by foot/ wheelchair - so we asked very nicely some of the volunteers who were busy preparing all transport  which was to start tomorrow, if someone could drive us back to the hotel. Happily, they did this as quite honestly we were exhausted!

Back to the hotel, a quick snack and then a Skype call with Ian Barham and others at a schools event taking  place in Stoke Mandeville at 5pm Local time here and 1pm GMT.

Then it was a trip to a Morrocan restaurant in a nearby hotel for an enjoyable evening meal and then  sleep   


March 5:

After  a restful night 's sleep  last night, the Bucks Ambassadors  rose refreshed with our Paralympian Athletes Gemma Collis and Craig McCann  working out in the gym all morning, Carl swam in the pool,  had a sauna and generally had some R&R.
At 16.30 ( 12.30GMT)  all assembled to  head to Roza Khutor Medals Plaza in Krasnya Polyana by bus for the Flame Unification Ceremony  with Carl meeting Sir Philip Craven CEO of the IPC.
Travelled in the bus with Duane Kale who is a Governing Board Member of IPC  but based in Wellington  New Zealand.
Arrived at Roza Khutor , Carl was met by Dmitry Chernyschenko , the President  of the Sochi Organising Committee. Dmitry introduced  Carl to Anatoly N. Pakhomov  who is the Mayor of Sochi and his Foreign Affairs Head  Svetlana Nedostoeva.
Closer to home , Carl was also introduced to David Courell Director of  Operational Delivery  at the BPA.
A speech from Sir Philip Craven and by Dmitry Cheryschenko. The virtual flames appeared  from Stoke Mandeville, and all 45 other Russian Cities with the cauldron being ignited. Sir Philip Craven made special mention of the fantastic celebrations at Stoke Mandeville last weekend.
The Mayor of Sochi then spoke and the first torch bearer lit the torch and he then  took the torch on its journey over 2 days down to the Fisht Stadium for the Opening Ceremony.
Back to the Compound and a Moroccan meal in a Hotel. The end of a very successful day at 23.45 ( 19.45 GMT)
In the top picture Gemma is seen following her leg of the Torch Relay in Sochi
March 4:
A warm welcome  from Sochi 2014. We arrived  about three hours ago here in Sochi and checked into the Paralympic Family Hotel, a little tired after a journey which started at Heathrow Airport with a departure at 21.35 yesterday 3rd March for a BA flight bound for Moscow arriving at 05.25 local time (01.25 GMT). 
Remained at the airport until the next flight (Siberian Airlines); left for Sochi at 10.15 local time (06.15 GMT) and arrived in Sochi at 12.40 (08.40GMT) for onward transfer to the Paralympic Village.
On the journey from London to Sochi on the same plane was a Canadian family from Ottawa who had flown via London so had an even longer journey than us! 
The guy, from the Canadian Paralympic Association, had already been to Sochi for the Olympics, stayed three weeks, then travelled back to Canada to spend three days with his family and travel back with them - taking two days each way! Now there is dedication to the cause.
On arrival at Sochi Airport, we saw a German couple taking photos of each other. I asked if they could take photos of us and we could take of them which we did. 
On further discussion, the lady was Annette Kogel from Der Tagesspiegel which is a broadsheet newspaper in German but who is writing articles about disability sport in schools, and I took her contact details as we may make contact. She took all our details and may now be writing about The Heritage Flame.
Carl is pictured  in Sochi with Andy White, Gemma Collis and Craig McCann