Day 18: Last competition
One's last working day always produces mixed feelings. The venue where I have been working for the past two and a half weeks has just hosted its last medal event. On the one hand, it is an ordinary medal day with its usual bustle, chaos, a lot of work and a lot of joy generated by the successful competition and its results. On the other, everything feels different.
The morning meeting begins with the words: "This is our last day. Please do not mess anything up because there will be no-one heretomorrow to sort things out." Those colleagues who have had experience of working at other Olympic games start joking, recalling that usually within an hour after the last competition is over all computer and other equipment is removed from offices, so you should not leave anything lying there on the last day, unless you want to lose it forever. Everybody is smiling and trying to look cheerful but there is already a tinge of nostalgia in their voices and unwillingness to let go of this wonderful experience.
Everybody is working like it is the last day because it is the last day. Photographers are becoming a bit more daring, trying – in the search for an interesting angle – to get to where they do not quite have access to. Journalists are becoming a bit more persistent, putting more challenging questions to athletes, who take more time to think of what to say in reply and as a result have to be hurried to press conferences and doping control tests. Volunteers are growing more daring too and join forces to catch jubilant winners for photos and autographs - it’s the last day and everything is allowed. Sometimes they are even joined by the organizers.
There are just a couple of hours left to work, with freedom and rest to follow, so one can cope with anything now. When the fire alarm at the press center goes off by mistake, nobody seems to be in the least bothered. And this is how they stay, totally unfazed, for the next 30 minutes, while the alarm keeps wailing while press center volunteers are running around in search of batteries to put in the remote control to switch the thing off. Nobody even shifts: indeed, why get distracted?
Whenever we get a free minute, the main topic of conversation is future plans. Some say they will stay for the Paralympic Games, others say they are going back home and are immediately asked where that is. Faced with the question, you are extremely tempted to say: my home is here, but you instantly remember that out there all of us have a real life, somewhere far from the Black Sea coast.
Once the competitions are over, all the rules are no longer relevant. The snow, a sacred thing at the mountain cluster venues, is now being used as raw material for snowballs, while the competition zone is turned into a snow slide, with people using pieces of the dasher boards as sliders. The presenter on the stadium radio, in their usual deadpan manner, is reading out a mock greeting address. There is a strong smell of alcohol in the corridors of the office block, with the sound of corks popping out of champaign bottles coming from different rooms. Everybody is hugging and congratulating each other, irrespective of their status or rank.
Today everything is allowed. Today is the last day.