Saturday, February 22, 2014

Russia Day Five. Two semi-finals!

Um, Friday, right?

I started the day armed only with a ticket to the first semi-final match: Sweden vs Finland. I made a sign with the 4 countries' flags, indicating in English, Russian and French that I wanted to trade my Sweden/Finland ticket for one to the Canada/US match tonight. When I got to the Olympic Park I wandered back and forth between Canada Olympic house (where I thought those trying to sell tickets to Canadians would come), the ticket sales booth (closed at that time), and the Bolshoi Ice Dome. I was trying to pull off the swap, but also assessing the prices in case I had to buy a ticket for tonight's game. People were generally asking for face value or a little less, on tickets that cost either 12,000 rubles (a little less than $400) or 19,000 rubles (about $600). Shortly before the Finland/Sweden game started I found an American woman with an extra 19,000 ruble ticket for the Canada/US game. I asked her what she wanted for it, and when she said 5,000 rubles I did the deal immediately. She said she wanted the ticket to go to someone who would appreciate the game, and I can promise her that I did!

There were no takers for my Sweden/Finland ticket, so I went in to watch the game. It was a decent game, but not quite thrilling, with Sweden edging Finland 2-1. Apparently Finland's hot goalie Tuuka Rask is ill, and that may have hurt their chances.

After the game I hung out a bit at Canada Olympic House (saw Hailey Wickenheiser), grabbed a quick dinner of not-too-bad sausages and beer, and chatted with Russians at my table. I feel my Russian is improving each day, and while I still get lost at times when conversations go too fast for me to follow, or use vocabulary I'm missing, I'm feeling more comfortable all the time, and I routinely order food, ask directions and make small talk in Russian. The people here are pleased and surprised when I do, and I think it opens the door to conversing more, even though many of them speak some English.

I had a good seat for the Canada/US men's semi-final, what would correspond to the top of the lower bowl in the corner at an NHL arena (the Bolshoi ice Dome, despite being the larger of the two hockey rinks here, seats only about 12,000 people). The crowd had a lot more Canadians than Americans, and the Russians were there to support us in force as well. I was blown away to see that many Russians came to the game with Canadian flags painted on their faces! Some had the Russian flag on one cheek, and ours on the other. Kids had a maple leaf on their foreheads. One guy had a huge maple leaf painted all over his face. It's one thing to cheer for us and want us to win, but to see so many of them paint their faces really moved me.

You all already know about the game: we controlled the play for the most part, played an incredibly disciplined and defensively responsible game, and shut down the US 1-0.

When I got back to my hotel I checked online for gold medal game tickets, and found there were some in the B category (second-most expensive), going for about $US950. At that point I was thinking there was a good chance of finding something cheaper by working the crowd tomorrow, so I held off.

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