It is Tuesday morning, and I have been up much of the night, posting video and photos. My window is open and I hear the traffic outside the Hotel Minsk, and it comforts me. I can see people heading to work, and the buildings across the street, from the Soviet Union days, have hammersr and sickles. I am in Minsk for The Match, an athletic battle between Team Europe and Team USA. At the end of day one, Team Europe is leading, 328-312. Here are some observations….in no order…
1. My long flight was LH 455, the flight was 10.5 hours, and from SFO to Frankfurt. With as much as I fly, I plan to fly to Frankfurt, as I can get in a walk, hit the Lufthansa lounge and get some work done, shower and find something German to eat. I have to admit, I have an addiction to tomato juice, with salt and pepper, and the ocassional pretzel. They remind me of Gus’ pretzels in Saint Louis, Missouri, which I would get on the way to Saint Agathas in first grade. I sat in row 70H, with a young woman, visiting her US soldier boyfriend for the first time.
It reminded me of my first trip abroad, in 1995. I went to Goteborg, Sweden on SAS. My flight had 40 couples going to a Normandy invasion reunion. I was sitting in the middle of them as SAS had an engine issue. By issue, I mean that the engine stopped working. SAS opened the bar on the plane, and we drank for 3 hours. I was with professionals. The guys started telling me stories and their wives ordered me drinks. I was fast asleep when the plane took off 4 hours late, with new engine. Oh, we made it to Goteborg.
2. My second flight, LH 1488, required a nine hour wait. During said wait, I posted all the stories for the day, edited a podcast, and dealt with issues such as companies owing us money. Cash flow is king, and It is always a challenge for me. I got in 3 miles and took a nap, then headed to flight. I was in seat 9c. Next to me was a gentleman who was taller than me, and, well larger than my 5-10, 265 lbs.
I went to sit down, and he told me that a) i stank, 2) i was fat, 3), I was taking too much space, like all Americans. Being the peaceful sort, I gave him the Larrry what the f#ck are you saying look. That did not work. I told him that if I had offended him, I was sorry. He proceeded to tell me to stay on my side and shut up. I asked him if he was German and this was a border issue. He was not amused. So, I gently asked the attendant to move me as I believed that the ensuing debacle would not be good for either of us.
I have had disagreeable folks on flights with me before, but this was one for the books.
3. The Hotel Minsk is a wonderfully refurbished Soviet era hotel. The rooms are comfy, the rooms are clean, and have mini bars. We get 3 meals in the hotel. Each meal has wonderful array of vegtables, smoked salmon, plus chicken, beef, veggies, pasta and espresso. The food is good, and the help is professional. There is a 24/7 bar, with good local beer and a nice bowl of borscht. The wifi is good for posting video, podcasts and big files. Belorussian TV and Russian TV are fascinating. I have loved the Russian fishing shows, with cod and catching pike.
The hotel is a ten minute walk to the Dinamo Stadium. I found a cafe on the way, called the Milano Cafe. I had a bowl of soup, (cream of brocolli with truffle oil), a beer, and a piece of bruchetta with pate. Cost was modest, $10.
4. The Dinamo National Olympic Stadium. This stadium has been completely refurbished. The new Mondo track is fast and gorgeous. The seats are comfortable, and the media stations are excellent. In the U.S. this stadium would cost in the $30-$40 million range. It is one of the finest stadiums in the world, and this is a great place for a major competition. I had great viewing of the event. Duffy Mahoney, Chief of Sport Performance, USA Track & Field, told me that this was one of the finest stadiums in the world. He complemented the runways and the media operations, on an interview we just posted.
5. The Match is fascinating look into the future…The meet began as a breakfast discussion in 2015 between EAA and USATF. The Federation of Belarus has put a lot of money into this event. European Athletics saw this as a natural. I agree. The event is good for the sport, and sports media. It is fun, light and competitive. The key is, how to get it to go to the US next? Word is, the Federation of Belarus already has funding and the support of the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.
6. At the opening ceremonies, Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko spoke to the stadium with approximately 12,000 in the stadium, a good healthy first night for the Match. Lukashenko sees himself as broker between old Soviet system and the new system. The President widely sees the benefit of a sporting relationship with the United States. He noted that sports is a great way to bring countries and cultures together.