How the Sochi torch run landed me in the back of a police cruiser
The Olympic torch passes by the boardwalk along the Black Sea in Adler, the southernmost district of Sochi, on Wednesday Feb. 5, 2014. (Rosa Hwang/CTV News)
Published Wednesday, February 5, 2014 3:53PM EST
When it comes to security, nothing is left to chance here in Sochi, especially along the torch run route.
Today it came right down the boardwalk along the Black Sea and in front of the hotel where Team CTV News is staying.
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Police with sniffer dogs spent the night securing the neighbourhood, removing plant pots, sealing manhole covers and forcing all vehicles to find alternative parking.
All this to say that in the early hours Wednesday morning (remember there’s a nine-hour time difference) when we left the workspace in our hotel to head to our Olympic broadcast booth, our driver was nowhere to be found.
Before the sun was up, on a tight deadline, we ran around the side streets to try and find him but instead, street cleaners had now blocked every artery.
We were getting slightly panicked as our satellite window quickly approached when headlights came toward us.
It wasn’t our driver, it was a police cruiser.
The cop in the passenger seat who spoke no English motioned to see our ID – the three of us obliged then proceeded to beg in broken Russian for a ride to our rooftop studio.
At first they offered to find us a cab then after a short back-and-forth, they allowed us to pile in the back of the cruiser. We couldn’t believe our luck.
In this climate of heightened security, two beat cops took pity on three Canadians and drove us to work in the middle of the night!
My intrepid show producer and brilliant photographer Rosa Hwang couldn’t resist the urge to take a picture which is where “Alex and John” (the cops) stopped smiling.
They made her delete the photo and demanded to watch her press the delete button.
You’ll have to take my word for it – these two police officers were gems - they even taught us a few more Russian words.
(Spelled phonetically: Ya lublu Rasiu means “I love Russia”)
A blurry, dark photo as the police cruiser drove away from us.
We made it to the feedpoint and invited them to come up to the roof to watch us broadcast CTV National News (they declined) shook hands and watched the cruiser speed away. Our own driver was waiting for us when we finished the show – still not sure where he ended up, but the police escort made it all worth it.
Just to follow through on the torch run…
This morning the crowds started forming along the boardwalk and in a sleepy haze we all went back out to watch the moment. It was fabulous.
This boy waiting to see the torch shows us his new Canada pin, gifted to him by our field producer.
Russian school kids, music, balloons and of course triumphant cheers when the torch runner came into view.
I couldn’t help but think of Boxing Day 2009 when I had the privilege of running the torch in my own hometown in advance of the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
That day it was about - 10 C and blizzard conditions. Today out on the boardwalk it was plus 12 C and full of sunshine.
On both occasions, there was joy and unbridled patriotism..
Every night is like an episode of “The Amazing Race” for us to get the show on the air, but last night added a whole new layer (and a great memory).
Can’t promise a police escort tonight but I can promise great Olympic coverage with just two days before the Games begin.
See you tonight!