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But Where to Stay? Olympic Parents Face Traveling Logistics

Hannah Kearney, center, of USA, celebrates her victory with Heather McPhie, left, of USA, and Eliza Outtrim, right, of USA, after finish of the women's moguls event during World Cup freestyle skiing competition Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, at Deer Valley resort, in Park City, Utah.  Kearney came in first place,Mcphine came in second place and Outtrim came in third. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Hannah Kearney, center, of USA, celebrates her victory with Heather McPhie, left, of USA, and Eliza Outtrim, right, of USA, after finish of the women's moguls event during World Cup freestyle skiing competition Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, at Deer Valley resort, in Park City, Utah. Kearney came in first place,Mcphine came in second place and Outtrim came in third. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Jill Niles could barely contain her excitement after the latest World Cup freestyle moguls results had been posted Friday. Niles’ daughter, 2010 Olympic gold medal winner Hannah Kearney, had just captured her fourth first-place win of the series, moving her into second place overall in the world standings behind China’s Mengtao Xu.

With the 2014 Winter Games scheduled for next February in Russia, the result put Kearney one step closer to securing her third Olympic berth.

Now all Niles has to figure out is how she’ll get tickets to Kearney’s events, and where she’ll stay overseas.

In 2010, Niles was fortunate enough to be able to stay with her sister, Jennifer, who lives just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, that year’s host city.

But there’s no such luck for accommodations near 2014 host Sochi, Russia.

Travel packages offered by Cosport — the authorized agency recommended by the United States Skiing and Snowboarding Association for tickets and lodging — offer standing-room, general admission tickets with no guarantee of a view of events. Plus, most of the deals involve buying access to up to four events, making them prohibitively expensive in some cases.

“There aren’t any tickets (ascribed to seated viewing) left,” said Niles, who as a parent is issued a pair of standing-room tickets to any event where Kearney qualifies. “With standing-room tickets, I could get stuck behind someone who’s 6 feet tall and miss Hannah’s event.”

So Niles, of Norwich, is seeking her own methods of accommodation for next winter’s Games. While holding out hope that she’ll be able to land seated tickets elsewhere, the Norwich recreation director has posted an entry on the town Listserv requesting that anyone with connections near Sochi forward her information that could lead to renting a home there for lodging.

The post hasn’t illicited much response — Niles knew it would be a long shot — but she’s exploring all possible avenues with the Games now less than a calendar year away. Preferably, she’ll be able to stay somewhere close to the Games’ “mountain cluster” complex, the venue hosting all of the skiing and snowboarding events that sits about 25 miles from Sochi.

“I think I’ll be able to find something,” Niles said. “There’s a lot of old-down stuff around Sochi, a lot of buildings with a lot of space. Ideally, I’d be closer to the mountain cluster than to Sochi, but we’ll see what happens.”

During a recent conversation with Kearney, Niles learned that a new hotel near the site of the Olympic Park in Adler is under construction and projected to open in the fall.

“They’re not taking reservations because, obviously, they’re not open yet,” Niles said. “But it’s good to know that another hotel is opening that could be a possibility.”

Outgoing Lebanon Police Chief Jim Alexander is in a similar circumstance in the event that his son, U.S. ski jumper Nick Alexander, is able to qualify for his second Olympics. Nick Alexander placed 40th in the large hill and 41st in the normal hill in 2010, when Jim Alexander made the trip to the Vancouver area with his wife, Jacqui. The Alexander parents reserved a pair of rooms in October 2009, not knowing for sure if Nick would be selected for the U.S. team. Luckily for them, he was.

“Even if you feel like he’s mostly likely going to be on the team, nothing’s for sure and any of the reservations you make are going to be 100 percent non-refundable,” said Jim Alexander, who split his time between two hotels in 2010. “It’s a little dicey because it’s a huge investment. The (Olympic rosters) aren’t announced until January, but everything is booked long before that.”

Airfare isn’t the only transportation challenge when it comes to attending the Olympics. Traveling to and from the competition sites requires plenty of planning ahead.

“I would say the transportation aspect requires just as much attention, if not more, than reserving a room,” the chief said. “In Vancouver, the road to Whistler (the site of Nick’s ski jumping events) was closed down with road blocks. Only buses with credentials and officials could get through.

“We had to buy bus tickets at least two months in advance, and it was about an hour and a half ride from where we stayed. We had to wake up at 4 a.m. to take a taxi to catch it.”

Olympic athletes themselves aren’t immune to logistical conundrums. Nick Alexander and the rest of the ski jumping field participated in a qualification round just hours before the Games officially kicked off, causing them to miss out on the opening ceremonies in Vancouver.

“It was a really long ride; they would have gotten no sleep and had to turn right back around,” said Jim Alexander.

Plus, admission to the opening ceremonies isn’t included in the compensatory tickets offered to parents. Those who wish to attend shell out upwards of an extra $1,000 or more.

“You could get a nosebleed seat for $800, and then you have to get to the hill to make sure you’re going to see your kid’s first turn,” Jim Alexander said. “There are so many ins and outs to pay attention to.”

Despite the logistical challenges, one certainty is that both Niles and Alexander will find a way to make it to Russia to watch their children compete if they qualify. Everything that comes along with the festivities becomes arbitrary.

“There’s no way I’m going to miss it; I’m going to go over there and find something,” Niles said. “There’s still a lot of time for things to fall into place.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.