As the well-traveled Olympic flame and outstanding athletes from around the world converged in Sochi for Friday’s opening ceremony of the XXII Winter Olympic Games, dozens of U.S. diplomats and other officials were working behind the scenes in the scenic Russian city.
They included consular officers helping Team USA and American visitors and athletes’ family members who are attending the Games; security experts seeking to look after their safety; and public affairs officers and staffers engaging in sports diplomacy and preparing members of the U.S. delegation for a flurry of media interviews.
Michael McFaul, U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation, was the first member of the official delegation to arrive in Sochi, sending out tweets and launching his Instagram photo account soon after he got his Olympic credentials.
After getting credentials, members of the delegation attended receptions and the Ambassador took part in a flag-raising ceremony at the Olympic Village in the Coastal Cluster, ahead of Friday evening’s opening ceremony. Public Affairs officers were also working with the press office of the U.S. Olympic Committee to help arrange dozens of media interviews for Ambassador McFaul and the other delegation members.
As many world leaders and other dignitaries gathered in Sochi on Thursday and Friday, security was tight and international media attending was growing. U.S diplomats spotted sports and media luminaries -- such as figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi and NBC anchor Brian Williams -- in the Olympic credential lines, and the Olympic Village complex was filled with athletes carrying their skis, skates and other equipment.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy Moscow’s American Citizen Services (ACS) unit -- which had been working for months to prepare for the Olympics and the Paralympics that will follow -- opened an office in Sochi to provide a range of services to U.S. citizens in need. The section created a Sochi page for the thousands of Americans expected to attend the games, with information on questions ranging from lost passports to transport and safety issues.
More than a week before the Olympics, the Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Julie Kavanagh, joined Deputy State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf and a Diplomatic Security official in a Google+ Hangout to explain the challenges that U.S. citizens would face in Sochi.
Americans interested in the Winter Olympics can stay tuned to DipNote and follow @USEmbRu, @TravelGov, @StateDept and @McFaul on Twitter and the Facebook page of American Citizen Services in Moscow.
About the Authors: Joseph Kruzich serves as the Information Officer and Emily Kenealy serves as the Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia.