The Cayman delegation at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, is settling in comfortably.
Media speculation in the buildup to the most expensive Olympics Games in history – supposedly costing more than $50 billion – was that the threat of terrorism was high and some venues were incomplete, with a number of accommodations uninhabitable.
Although there is scant evidence of these problems, David Carmichael, the chef de mission for Cayman’s sole entrant, skier Dow Travers, believes the negative stories are wholly overplayed.
“The opening ceremony on Friday was obviously a big hit,” Mr. Carmichael said. “It was not as cold as one would have thought, but towards the end it was not so pleasant. That’s when it got really cold.
“Dow was very happy to carry the Cayman flag as it’s a big honor, but luckily it was not his first time, so he probably enjoyed it a lot more.”
Mr. Travers, 26, was the first Cayman Islands Winter Olympian four years ago at the Vancouver Games. He competes in the giant slalom on Feb. 19 and in the slalom on Feb. 22. Mr. Travers is being coached by former U.S. Olympic skier Jake Zamansky.
“There’s is a lot of press about all the bad things here, but none are insurmountable,” Mr. Carmichael said. “We came to the conclusion on day four that you need to look at what has been done; venues are complete, villages have been built, towns have been created and infrastructure put in place to make all the rest work.
“I mean, they have built something the size of Cayman in six years! I have driven the full length of the Olympic area, inside and outside the venues, and not once have I met a local who was not helpful.
“Granted, the famous Russian smile may seem a bit weird, but they are pleased to see us, and extremely helpful when they can be, but there are still some quirks that just take time. But it’s safe to say that everyone we have met has been very pleasant.”
Mr. Carmichael added that the terrorism threats and fears are not something that are worth giving credence to. “We took an enormous amount of advice before we came here and, quite frankly, everyone was right,” he said.
“Terrorism and security is in every part of our world. Yes, it’s annoying to have so much security and, yes, it makes getting around hard, but again, never once have I met an unreasonable or troublesome policeman or security officer. They want us here and they are doing their best, so you live with it.”
He added that the Olympics have been a security issue since the ‘70s. “That’s life. For us, here, we don’t find it too bad. It just is what it is.”
Henry Harford is the Cayman team’s attache. He said, “What has been achieved from nothing is very impressive and massively outweighs what hasn’t. The sporting and residential facilities we have seen in both mountain and coastal clusters are all good and while the security elements are in evidence, there would be any amount of criticism if they weren’t.
“They seem to be handling the numbers involved pretty well and, broadly speaking, with smiles rather than frowns. The overall atmosphere is friendly, not oppressive.”
Mr. Carmichael added that Mr. Travers is training well for his events. “I spend most of my days on administration and the likes and Dow and Jake are out the door early and up the hill skiing. They are planning a day off mid-week. Not sure what we will do, but there is a fly fishing trout farm down the road. That may be an option.”