Saturday, February 15, 2014

From Russia With Love

Valentine's Day in the Olympic City was lovely though work-filled before a little bit of fun.

It was great to see the Russian President for the third time in a week when Putin visited USA House, this time all-smiles (he also visited neighboring Canada House).

As they say in the musical from my home state, if we keep meeting like this, "People Will Say We're In Love."

The media relations team for Citi (for which I am contributing a few freelance hours) worked through a busy day of interviews for athletes Evan Lysacek, Erin Hamlin and Dan Jansen to discuss the Citi Every Step program.

My main media hit du jour was with The Weather Channel whose producers invited Lysacek to discuss the men's figure skating finalists.

It was good to see Al Roker again (I only seem to visit his set during the Winter Olympics, starting with Roker's visit to B.C. Canada Place in Torino).

The Weather Channel's on-screen set is in "The Hollywood Squares" media platform near the Olympic Cauldron, and as we exited Evan's Weather interview several other NBC affiliates confirmed on-the-spot interview requests -- a golden afternoon for any Olympic publicist.

Later, back at USA House, I spoke with Lysacek and Hamlin about wardrobe malfunctions for the Winter Games, and their comments are included in the following post written as the next contribution submitted for approval:

You’re a Winter Olympian who reached the pinnacle of your sports career. You have the world on a string!

But what’s to be done when the string on your competition uniform starts to unravel? You don’t want to destroy this sweater!

Wardrobe malfunctions are a reality for elite athletes in Sochi.

Photo via AFP/ScanPix
There are self-inflicted costume issues. Russian speedskater Olga Graf was so elated after earning a medal she unzipped her suit to reveal her “commando” competition style during the first week of the Games.

The word on the street is some of Jamaica’s bobsled team gear wound up in Australia rather than Sochi. Lesson to future Olympians: Pack official gear in carry-on luggage.

Aside from human errors in Olympic attire, according to some Team USA athletes, the accidental wardrobe malfunction can take place in any sport, often at the worst possible time. Who could forget Tanya Harding’s laces going bad in Lillehammer?

During a walk between venues in Sochi, Olympic champion figure skater Evan Lysacek said tears, rips or split pants are the most common for male skater wardrobe woes, while for women’s figure skaters, shoulder strap breaks or the slip of a low-cut top are issues for some. Though Lysacek said he never suffered a wardrobe malfunction of his own, he witnessed a few athletes work through quick fixes.

“I’ve seen others make a quick change,” said Lysacek. “You have to be prepared for anything.”

You’d think that with a custom-designed costume costing thousands of dollars, the expensive threads might stay in one piece and on the athlete.

“I worked with Vera Wang on all of my costumes,” said Lysacek. “They were all one-of-a-kind designs but they fit within with just an inch [of adjustability].”

Lysacek added that Wang personally designed and fitted his uniforms, a special experience with the added benefit of minimizing potential problems.

Sled athletes also face winter wardrobe malfunctions.

Luge Olympic medalist Erin Hamlin, who earned a bronze for Team USA, said in her third sliding run in Sochi she noticed a problem with her “bootie” – her competition shoes.

“They can break and the problem can definitely affect your slide, [so] I always have extras just in case,” said Hamlin. “Though in our sport our scores are not affected by the [cosmetic] design of the uniform, there are other factors that can affect speed for which we are judged.”

Both Hamlin and Lysacek are athletes for Citi Every Step, an Olympic-related program through which athletes invite fans to click their shared support of non-profit sport initiatives. Hamlin is supporting  USA Luge Slider Search while Lysacek designated Figure Skating In Harlem to receive benefits when fans click to direct Citi funds (disclosure: Citi Every Step is a client for which this contributor is providing freelance P.R. counsel in Sochi).

Illustrating Hamlin’s remarks about uniforms and speed, perhaps the worst type of wardrobe malfunction in Sochi is a technical one. On Saturday, U.S. Speedskating announced their athletes want to stop using the 2014 Under Armour-designed suits, now blamed for less-than-stellar times in a sport for which thousandths of a second determine medalists.

At least the speedskaters uniforms weren’t like the see-through yoga pants that earned headlines in 2013.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver except the Olga Graf image via AFP

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