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Francisty views the Olympics from a front-row seat

Paul Francisty of Duncan worked in alpine skiing at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi and has lots of collective memorabilia from the experience. - Don Bodger
Paul Francisty of Duncan worked in alpine skiing at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi and has lots of collective memorabilia from the experience.
— image credit: Don Bodger

Duncan's Paul Francisty ventured to Sochi, Russia to work at the Olympic Winter Games, but you know what they say about all work and no play.

Francisty found plenty of time for play and to enjoy the atmosphere of the Games while doing his part as a course worker for alpine skiing events at the Rosa Khutor Resort.

Francisty's responsibilities were to "maintain a course and the gate you're attached to,'' he explained.

Francisty experienced first-hand the inner workings of the Games, just as he did at Whistler during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and will do again in four years' time in Korea.

"I got excited about Sochi because it's a different country, same thing with Korea,'' Francisty said.

The only thing is the travel to that part of the world from here can be rather arduous and it was a 43-hour ordeal from start to finish for Francisty before he returned home to the valley Monday night.

"The connections are not the best,'' he understated.

Now just how did Francisty attain such as prime assignment? Well, he's been around the slopes of Mount Washington and beyond for a long time, for starters.

"I've been involved with alpine racing for 20 years now,'' he said. "I do all the World Cups. This was a no-brainer.''

The invitations went out to apply for placement at the Olympics two years ago and Francisty jumped at it.

The process got bogged down in the later stages leading up to the Games. "Russians like their paperwork and you follow it,'' Francisty said.

It took a while to sort everything out, and he didn't actually book his trip until mid-January.

Francisty said it took some 27,000 volunteers to run the Olympics compared to 10,000 in Vancouver.

"The Russians wanted to run the Olympics themselves,'' he said. "They didn't want international workers.''

But the various bodies involved on the Olympic committee quickly kiboshed that idea, Francisty pointed out.

Once at the Olympics, he received a package of items that amounted to about $1,100 U.S.

"It was a pretty nice gift and the stuff added up to 28 pounds,'' Francisty said. "We were all thinking how we were going to bring it home.''

He went through a training process before the Games began which was rather routine to him and without the aid of an interpreter. "Only a few could speak English,'' said Francisty.

He wore a green bib that identified him as a course crew member.

"If you don't have a green bib, you can't go on the course when the race was started,'' Francisty explained.

The first five gates on the alpine course have the steepest terrain, he added, and Gate 3 was his responsibility. Rosa Khutor was about 45 kilometres from the main Olympic village, Francisty indicated.

"We lived about 10 minutes by bus to the building where we had our ski gear,'' he said.

The transportation system was one of the most positive things about the Games in Francisty's opinion. "You couldn't find better,'' he said.

Francisty found both the bus and train networks, much of it built for the Games, worked like clockwork.

However, accommodations were marginal at best, he said.

"Basically, eight of us lived in apartment — four beds in a room, a very tight space.

"Meals were kind of marginal at the beginning. Food rations were actually there. They put something on the plate to a certain scale.''

But it did get better in the second week, Francisty said.

Security received top marks from him. "You never feel so secure in your life as you do in Sochi,'' he said.

Francisty had a limited workload compared to Vancouver that afforded him lots of times to take in the Sweden-Slovenia, Canada-Finland and Finland-United States men's hockey games as well as many other events.

"It was a successful Olympics for Russia,'' said Francisty. "The medal haul was huge for them. The Russian pride was very, very visible.''

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