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Postcards From Russia, With Love!

Writing Postcards in Russia

As part of my Kickstarter rewards for the Olympic Spirit Project, I had promised to send postcards to my project backers. So on my last couple of days in Russia, after I had somewhat recovered from the flu, and the Games were over I found a nice little patio on the boardwalk along the Black Sea in Adler, ordered a Coke and sat down to deliver on my promise.

I don’t think I’ve ever sent that many postcards all at once! There were 70 cards in total! I can’t even tell you when the last time was that I hand wrote so much all at one time. It was a bit of a reality check as to how much we rely on computers for everything these days, yet refreshing to do something so very analog.

I took a few breaks to relieve the writer’s cramp, but after a couple of hours, two Cokes, and a salad for lunch, I was done! I attached the stamps and went in search of a mailbox.

Sochi 2014 Olympic Postage Stamps

A couple of weeks ago I started getting tweets and messages that the cards were arriving. (Note to self: Postcards from Russia take an entire month to get to their destination!) I asked my backers to send me fun creative photos of their postcards when they received them and here are the pics I’ve received so far. 

Thank you all again for your support on the project! It was an incredible adventure and you all helped make it possible! I will be forever grateful for your support and generosity!

With gratitude,
xo Mariska

PS. If you still have a photo to send me, please do! I will add them to this post when I receive it.

Olympic Spirit Project postcards are now available! 

BUY NOW!

 

Team Canada & Bronze Medal Hockey

When I bought my Olympics tickets in february 2013, I had bought two tickets to the Men’s Bronze Medal Game, since gold tickets were not available at the time. So now, after the game from the previous night, I was stuck with two tickets for a game that Canada would not be playing in.

I had posted my tickets to the Facebook groups as soon as the Canada – USA game ended, hoping to find some Americans to either sell my tickets to or make a trade with. I had a few responses on the Facebook page, but found that a lot of people were flakey and didn’t show up when they said they would, so I was getting a bit frustrated.

Everyone’s Looking For Tickets!

Canadians looking for Gold Medal tickets at Sochi 2014

These guys were AWESOME!

I headed to the Olympic Park and went straight to the Canada and USA houses. I talked to everyone around the two houses and pretty much everyone was hoping to do the same thing as I was. I found one guy, who turned out to be one of the people I had connected with through my Facebook post. He had a single gold ticket, and wanted two bronze for an even trade for him and his friend.

DONE!

Two bronze tickets for one gold ticket!

Bronze for Gold ticket trade at Sochi 2014

Now What?

Since the bronze event was all I had tickets for that day, I was stuck with no events for the day. I decided I wanted to go to the bronze game anyway. I walked over to the Bolshoy and ran into these guys, who were selling their tickets, but at a price that I was not willing to pay.

Canadians selling bronze tickets

Sochi 2014 Olympic Rings & Cauldron

I hung around outside the arena until the game started. (There were always people selling ticket for less than face value after events started.) I took the opportunity to take some pics of the rings and the cauldron and then I saw a group of people in matching Canada gear walking up to the rings. I thought, “Hey! This is perfect Olympic Spirit Project material!” And when I looked closer…

It was THE CANADIAN MEN’S HOCKEY TEAM!!!

Canadian Men's Olympic Hockey Team 2014

Soch i2014 Canadian Men’s Olympic Hockey Team

Canadian Men's Olympic Hockey Team 2014

Sochi 2014 Canadian Men’s Olympic Hockey Team

Whaaaaat?!?!?!!! I could NOT believe my luck! It was perfect! I nestled into the crowd and stood front and center right beside the team photographer when I took this photo! YES!! I was SO excited!

Bronze Medal Hockey

So after THAT happened, I found a Canadian couple selling a single bronze ticket for half face value. I paid less than $100 for the ticket and headed inside. You would think the day couldn’t possibly get any better and then I got to my seat. The seat I had just bought for 1/5 the price of my original tickets was BETTER than the ones I had traded with the American guy!  He was sitting about 8 rows behind me!

So I once again counted my blessings of yet another fantastic day as I watched the USA lose to Finland for the bronze medal.

My seat for the bronze medal game

Where were you for the bronze medal game?

Olympic Spirit Project postcards are now available! 

BUY NOW!

 

 

 

Sochi Day 8 – Speed Skating Day!

Iceberg Skating Palace

It was team pursuit speed skating day!

I went to the Olympic Park early and met up with some other Canadians to grab a couple of drinks (ok, ok, beers…) in the sun before our day’s events. As we sat on our bench, people watching, probably one out of every three Russians walking by either wanted a photo with us or wanted to trade stuff for our Canada gear! We probably posed for about 20 photos that day!

Canadian Beauties!

This super cute Russian girl came up and asked me if she could wear my Canada gear for a photo, so I handed over my flag, toque and mittens, and she ROCKED it! You’d never know that she wasn’t Canadian!

Russian girl in Canada gear

Team Pursuit Speed Skating

When the time came, I headed into the Adler Skating Arena for the speed skating team pursuit event. The short track was so amazing earlier in the week so I was looking forward to watching a team pursuit event. The speed was insane as I watched both the men’s and women’s events. I still cannot believe the size of the athletes’ legs! Wow!

Sadly, Canada didn’t qualify for the finals, so that was a bit disappointing. I was lucky to have had the opportunity to photography the same team when they won gold in the same event at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

Inside the Iceberg Skating Palace

Team Canada - Team Pursuit Speed Skating Sochi 2014

Team Canada

Team Canada - Team Pursuit Speed Skating Sochi 2014

Team Canada

Team Russia - Team Pursuit Speed Skating Sochi 2014

Team Russia

Team Netherlands - Team Pursuit Speed Skating Sochi 2014

Team Netherlands

After the event was over, I headed toward the Bolshoy Arena to see if I could find a decently priced ticket for the men’s semi-final hockey game. Canada was playing the USA. I didn’t have any luck, so I went to find some food and again, I ran into a group of Canadians in the lineup. This group was a bit different though, in that they had been in Russia working on the Games for over six months already! I chatted with them about their experiences and what it was like to live in Russia and every one of them was looking forward to going home at the end of the month.

Men’s 5000m Relay

After I finished eating, I headed back to the Bolshoy for one last kick at trying to get a ticket to the game and one of that group of Canadians ran after me to give me a ticket to the short track relay event that was about to start. I tried to give him money for it (face value was at $200), but he insisted I just take it and go enjoy myself! Again, I was impressed by how amazingly generous people can be!

When I arrived, the event had already begun. This was a huge event for the Russians and the cheering in the Iceberg Skating Palace was deafening! The relay event was CRAZY! There were so many skaters on the ice all at once, some racing and some circling on the inside getting into position for their turn in the relay. It was a wonder that none of them ran into each other!

Russia wins Gold in the 5000m relay at Sochi 2014

Russia wins GOLD!

USA wins Silver in the 5000m relay at Sochi 2014

USA wins Silver!

China wins bronze in the 5000m relay at Sochi 2014

China wins Bronze!

 

The final result of the men’s 5000 meter relay was Russia – Gold, the USA – Silver, and China – Bronze. It was an unbelievable sight and the cheering and support from the crowd was unmatched to anything I had seen at the Games yet! It was absolutely awesome! Just. AWESOME!

A Perfect End to a Perfect Day

I was pumped after all that fan energy at the men’s 5000m relay event! The Canada vs USA men’s hockey game wasn’t quite over so I sweet talked my way past the bouncer at the House of Switzerland (sweet talking bouncers is much easier to do when you are traveling alone) to watch the last 10 minutes of the game. As we all know, Canada WON! and the Swiss House EXPLODED because as usual, it was FULL of Canadians! It was a perfect end to another FANTASTIC day!

Have you ever watched either team pursuit or team relay speed skating? When and where? 

 

I’m Going to Tobago!

Well… not just yet… but with your help, we can make it happen!

The first step is complete: Application for #60Days in Paradise submitted!!

#TobaGOtime

The Job

If (when!!) I get hired, my job will be to go to the island of Tobago, stay in beautiful hotels, eat fancy food (and sample tasty drinks), do all kinds of awesome activities, learn about the culture, meet the locals, take LOTS of photos and videos of all of it, and then tell you guys (and the rest of Canada) all about it! Oh, and did I mention it would be all expenses paid PLUS salary?! (Whaaaaat?!!!)

I fully agree with my wonderful friend Dave who said I’m “tailor made for this gig!”

So please peruse my application and add your recommendation at the bottom if you think I have what it takes to get this job done!

Where is Tobago?

Tobago is one of the two main islands that make up the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is located in the southern Caribbean Sea just outside the hurricane belt. The island lies northeast of Trinidad and southeast of Granada, off the southern coast of Venezuela.

Tobago on Google Maps

What Will I do in Tobago?

With a rich history and a ton of activities and eco-tourism options, there is something for everyone on this beautiful tropical paradise and I want to do it ALL!

  • Scuba Diving, Sailing, Surfing, Wake Boarding, Fishing
  • Hiking, Bird Watching, & Eco-Tourism including one of the Oldest Protected Rainforests in the world
  • Golf, Beaches, Pools & Spas
  • Great Food and Tasty Cocktails (mmm!)
  • Local Art and Music, Jazz Festivals and Local Art

And much much more!  

Tobago Beach

I’ll need your vote between April 21st and May 16th

The application process closes April 4th. A group of travel professionals will then choose the top 10 applicants and then the voting process happens between April 21st and May 16th. Please keep your clicketty/tappetty finger ready to submit your vote! (It’s still unclear if it will be a one-time or daily voting process, but either way I will need YOUR HELP to spread the word.)

So stay tuned and please share with everyone you know (!!) cuz I know we are all imagining ourselves on a tropical beach as we wait for our (short) Canadian summer to arrive. I have selflessly volunteered because one of us should really go do it so that the rest can live vicariously… Hehehe! ; )

Follow Me so you don’t miss a moment of the action:

Facebook – http://facebook.com/mariskarichtersphotography
Twitter – http://twitter.com/mariskar
Instagram – http://www.instagram.com/mariskar
Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+MariskaRichters
Tumblr – http://mariskar.tumblr.com
Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/mariskar
Youtube – http://www.youtube.com/mariskarichters
FourSquare – http://www.foursquare.com/mariskar
Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/mariskar/
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/mariskarichters
Vine – https://vine.co/mariskar

Thank you!

Sending big love and gratitude to you all in advance for your vote and support!

With your help I can get to Tobago and share the adventure with Canada and the world! It all starts when you leave your recommendation here!

It’s #TobaGOtime!

 

My Face Was On the MegaFon Pavilion!

One of the coolest sponsor displays at Sochi 2014 had to be MegaFon Faces on the jumbotron in the Olympic park. The MegaFon jumbotron wasn’t just ANY jumbotron though…

Remember those Pinart things where you put your hand in to depress the pins so it takes the shape of your hand (or whatever other body part or object you put in there)? So the MegaFon jumbotron was more like jumbo-Pinart! So when a friend asked me is I wanted to go meet the MegaFon representative and have my face on the thing, of course I said yes! (cuz seriously, that’s Awesome!)

MegaFon Pinart Jumbotron

So we were invited upstairs to the VIP area at the MegaFon pavillion, where we were offered champagne (and coffee, but who drinks coffee when there’s champagne??) while we sat on their cushy couches and gave them our info before stepping into the photobooth to have our photos taken for the jumbo-Pinart.

When we were all done, they gave us each a Sochi 2014 branded Pinart souvenir (a perfect gift for my 5-year-old nephew!) and then we had to wait a couple of hours before it would show up on the jumbotron, and they said would text us when it did.

So here is what it looked like (skip to 0:25 to see my face start showing up):

So ya… I thought that was pretty cool!

 

 

Holland Heineken House 2014

Holland Heineken House 2014As a Dutch Canadian, the Holland Heineken House was a must see for me. Before coming to Russia I had been in contacted the Holland House press center and was granted a press pass, so I went to check it out!

I knew that it was located in the Azimut Hotel, but it was a bit confusing to find and was about a 20 minute walk from the entrance to the Olympic Park. I knew I was on the right track when I started seeing tulips!

When I arrived, I passed through security and met with their corporate relations representative who toured me around the house telling me all about the celebrations and the success of the Dutch athletes.

One crazy story was that their “bitterballen” (traditional Dutch croquette appetizer) were restricted  from entering Russia in customs, so they brought in the Master Croquettemaker from Holland instead. He produced and rolled hundreds of these little balls everyday for the Heineken House Cafe!

Holland Heineken House is by reputation one of the best places to celebrate at the Olympics, and Sochi was no exception. These photos tell that story pretty well!

(Gallery photos courtesy of the Heineken.)

Men’s Ski Cross and Ladies’ Halfpipe Skiing

It was another gorgeous sunny morning in Sochi and although I had lost my voice, I was finally starting to feel a bit better from that nasty flu.  Day 7 was my last day in the mountains for men’s ski cross and ladies half-pipe skiing.

There was a pretty big Canadian presence at the men’s ski cross event and after a week of events I was starting to know and recognize many of the Canadian fans. Canada made it to the big final along with three French competitors, but sadly came in 4th. The three Frenchmen took all three medals!

Men's Ski CrossCanadian Fans at Men's Ski Cross

Men's Ski Cross French Medalists

 We headed to Austria House next where we met a crazy crew of Americans who pumped us full of beer and vodka… (Thanks for the good times Boys!)

Austria House with Crazy Americans

Austria House with Crazy Americans

Austria House with Crazy Americans

 After I was fed and ‘watered’ I went up the mountain again where the ladies’ half-pipe event was making its Olympic debut. There were several injuries during the evening, but it was amazing to watch these women compete! Awesome!

Olympics 2014 - Ladies Ski Cross Olympics 2014 - Ladies Ski Cross Olympics 2014 - Ladies Ski Cross

Olympics 2014 - Ladies Ski Cross Olympics 2014 - Ladies Ski Cross

Before the finals of the event, Sochi volunteers skiied down the halfpipe in the shape of a heart to honour Sarah Burke’s memory. Sarah Burke was a pioneer in the halfpipe event and won four X-Games titles before she suddenly died in early 2012 due to a skiing accident. It was nice to see her remembered at the ladies halfpipe Olympic debut event.

Sochi 2014 - Sarah Burke Tribute

The final results of the event: USA – Gold, France – Silver, Japan – Bronze.

Men’s Quarterfinal Hockey: Canada vs Latvia

Bolshoy Arena

 

Canadians were buzzing with anticipation as they entered the Bolshoy for the Canada vs Latvia quarterfinal hockey.

It’s always interesting walking into an event solo, not knowing who you will be sitting with or the energy of those around you. I was pleasantly surprised and excited to find that my seat was beside these guys! Canadian superfans always make the experience that much more awesome.

Canada vs Latvia with the Helmet Heads

There were no alcohol sales inside the official Olympic venues, but these guys didn’t let that stop them! Cuz seriously, how can you be at a Canadian at a hockey and not have a beer in your hand? There is something very wrong about that scenario. So these superfans each came in with a backpack full of beer and generously shared them around to fellow Canadians (ie. me!)

There was plenty of Olympic Spirit to be found and you can see from this photographic summary:

 

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Canada vs Latvia Quarterfinal day6_hockey-7  day6_hockey-5 day6_hockey-4

 

Canadian Fan in a Crosby Jerseyday6_hockey-8

day6_hockey-6

Canada won over Latvia with a score of 2 – 1, the two goals were scored by Patrick Sharp and Shea Weber. You can find more stats and details from the game here.

After the game we were once again approached by Russian after Russian for photos. This group included a couple that I had been sitting beside earlier in the day for the Russia vs Finland game. They were super excited to run into me again, so of course wanted a photo.

20140324-102225.jpg

I LOVED this super cute mini fan that we found on our way to the House of Switzerland to celebrate.

day6_hockey-9

I traded my Canada scarf with this group of Russian athletes at the cauldron for some Russian Olympic pins.

Russian Fans at the Olympic Cauldron

day6_hockey-10

Most Canadians made their way to the House of Switzerland to celebrate the win and as was the nightly tradition, the Canadian national anthem broke out.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWLp7cdS5RU&list=UUAX8Y6j1NZFWZleMJcM_FXA

20140324-102301.jpg

It was another awesome day full of pleasant surprises. Two incredible hockey games, an unexpected curling, new friends and fantastic memories that will last a lifetime! Despite my challenges with lost luggage and the flu, my Olympic experience was only getting better and better with each passing day!

Did you watch Team Canada play in the quarter final match?

Sochi Day 6: Quarterfinal Hockey & Semifinal Curling

Street Hockey: Canada House vs USA House

Thank goodness my fever broke after a full 20 hours of sleep! I woke up on Day 6 to a message from a friend letting me know about a street hockey game between Canada Olympic House and USA Olympic House that was supposed to begin in a half hour. I rushed to get out the door and to the Olympic Park, but unfortunately I missed it. But I was still able to get a shot of speed skater (and best team mate ever!Gilmore Junio and figure skating Silver Medalist Patrick Chan before they cleared everything away.

Street Hockey at Canada Olympic House 2014

Patrick Chan playing street hockey

Buy the Olympic Spirit eBook NOW!

Men’s Quarterfinal Hockey: Russia vs Finland

My first event of the day was the men’s Russia vs Finland quarter final hockey game. When I bought the tickets a year ago, I was really hoping I would get to watch Canada play, but this wasn’t the case. I had sold my second ticket to this game earlier in the week, so I had some extra cash to put towards a ticket for the Canada vs Latvia game later that evening. I found a Russian fan outside Canada Olympic House selling tickets and managed to get a Category A ticket for just over half of face value. I was set and excited to watch Team Canada play! My one-event day just turned into a two-event day! YAY!

The Russia vs Finland game was INSANE! The energy in the arena was crazy, wow! Both the Russian and Finnish fans were in top form. Finland won with a score of 3 – 1, sending them to the semifinal round, and Russia was out, a huge disappointment to Russian fans.

 

Sochi 2014 Olympics Fans Russia vs Finland Quarter Final Hockey  Russian fans - 2014 Olympics

Finnish Fans - 2014 Olympics

 

Men’s Semifinal Curling: Canada vs China

As I left the Shayba Arena, I got a message from a friend (who I had met in a Facebook group and had yet to meet in person) offering me a free last minute ticket to the men’s semifinal curling match. My luck went even further in that Canada was playing China! My two-event day just turned into a three-event day! YES!! 

 

I was once again blown away by the fact that: People. Are. Awesome! (Thank you Tom!!!)

 

At Vancouver 2010 I had only watched Paralympic curling, so I was excited (as excited as one can get about curling…) to go check out my first Olympic curling match. Canada beat China with a score of 10 – 6! Yay Canada!

 

Men's Curling Semifinal - Canada vs China

Men's Curling Semifinal - Canada vs China

Men's Curling Semifinal - Canada vs China

 

I had to duck out of curling early though, to head back to the Shayba Arena for Canada vs Latvia hockey. I’ll tell you all about that in part 2 of the story because Team Canada hockey should really have it’s very own post…

Buy the Olympic Spirit eBook NOW!

 

Sochi Day 4: Women’s Hockey Semi Finals

I woke up on Day 4 with bruised knees and a hovering flu, and I tried my best to ignore both as I prepared for a day of hockey. I was about to leave the hotel when there was a knock on the door and there stood Evgeny from the front desk with my luggage! I was so happy to see him standing there there with my bag that I jumped up and down, screaming, “YAY!!!” and gave him a giant hug! (I don’t think he expected that! Haha!)

The best part about having my luggage back (besides the fresh clean socks and underwear) was the meds that I always pack in my first aid kit! So after changing into fresh clothes (so good!) I popped a couple of DayQuill and headed out for a day of women’s hockey!

I arrived in Sochi with 2 tickets to the afternoon women’s semi-final game and was really hoping it would be the Canada vs Switzerland game, but it turned out to be the USA vs Sweden game.

USA vs Sweden Women's Hockey

 

I had managed to sell my extra ticket to the same American guy I had bought my short track speed skating ticket from (yay!!), so now I had some extra cash to buy a ticket to the Canada vs Switzerland game! So after the USA game, I headed straight over to Canada Olympic House to see if anyone was selling tickets, and sure enough there were! I got one for almost half of face value!

Looking as terrible as I feel (Sick with the Sochi flu)

Looking as terrible as I feel with the Sochi flu.

By this time it was about 7:30pm, I was hungry and the DayQuill had pretty much completely worn off. I felt terrible! I realized that this flu was only going to get worse before it got any better, and started to wonder if it had been such a great idea to stay for the second game…? But who was I kidding??? OF COURSE it was a great idea!! Canada was playing and I HAD to go support them!

I had about 2 hours to kill before the game, so connected with my friend Shauna and we headed to the cafeteria tent for some food and to get warm. I must have looked as terrible as I felt, because Shauna ended up buying me a bowl of soup and a hot cup of mulled wine to warm me up from the inside out. (Thank you Shauna!!) It helped and I perked up as game time approached.

When we got to the Shayba Arena , we were stopped by CBC who followed us in, thanks to Shauna’s awesome homemade Canada signs! Seconds after this happened, both Shauna’s and my phones went crazy with messages from friends back in Canada who had just seen us on TV! Awesome!!

Once inside, we found Mascot #2, the bear! I immediately went to have my photo taken and when he saw my Canadian flag pins, he gestured that he would love to have one, so of course I gave it to him!

Mascot #2: the Bear

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The game was incredible with a 3-1 win for Canada, moving the ladies on to the gold medal round! Unfortunately my seat was right behind the net, so I was not able to get too many great shots of the ladies playing, but it was an amazing experience and great to see so much support for women’s hockey! Being surrounded by other Canadians brought the energy up and made it that much more exciting.

Click the image below for CBC’s summary of the game.

CBC CAN vs SWI game summary

 

Women's Hockey - CAN vs SWI

 

So there you have it, another incredible day at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics! With each passing day, I just don’t know how the next day could possibly top it, but somehow it just does!

Did you watch the ladies play in the semi final? What did you think of the game?