Monday, August 12, 2013

Moving with Yoghurt: Moscow Moments, Monday, 8/12

An arduos 24+ hour trip is forgotten as soon as I stagger into Luzhniki Stadium for Monday evening's events. The cab driver understood it was important for me to get there, and soon. This triggered a sequence of heart-stopping driving moves, not the least of which was his taking both hands off the wheel at 75mph to complete the text he heretofore had been composing with only one hand. This was almost as frightening as the Ricky Martin song on the radio, now remade into Russian Rap!

I'm sitting in perfect seats right in front of the pole vault. In front of me are delirious German and French fans as the final - in a colossal upset - is Germany-France-Germany. Raphael Holzdeppe is one of those engaging 'good for the sport' athletes who will wear his crown well.

I watch him as heavy favorite Renaud Lavillenie makes his third and last attempt. A clearance and Lavillenie wins. A miss and the crown is Holzdeppe's. Quiet and respectful as his vaulting mate missed; an explosion of emotion as his lifelong quest is fulfilled. Then Lavillenie finds him - the tables have turned, no? - and offers a congratulatory hug. By the way, had Lavillenie cleared, I would have nailed 1-2-3 in my pole vault prediction. Did he not appreciate what was at stake here?!

It's hard to dream this big when your event is dominated by a Lavillenie. I wonder what it's like to be in the women's shot put... no one else but Valerie Adams has won in four years and she was on top of her game Monday evening.

I note the huge pots of flowers on the infield and think that we in the US need to up our track meet flower game considerably. These pots do make inviting targets for the javelin competition and, like a golf hole-in-one jackpot, there should be a reward for planting your javelin in one of these.

The stadium is not nearly full, but that's hard to tell when Russia takes bronze in both the women's 400m and men's 110m hurdles. I'm delighted to see Krivoshapka take 3rd with a magnificent run from the outside.

Could IAAF President Lamine Diack present something other than the men's 100m awards? How about the women's 20k walk medals when perhaps not quite so many billions will be watching.

Back in the USSR: I last set foot in Moscow in 1986 when another teacher and I brought 23 students and a few parents. The first major change I notice - other than the cost of cab fare - is a modern skyline. Somebody is doing well in the contracting business.

I have a slide I took of Luzhniki Stadium in 1986. It looks grim and grey as the then-abandoned facility was taking on a Planet of the Apes-like aspect of slowly decaying infrastructure. It may not be full tonight, but the colorful transformation is striking.

I arrange for the cabbie to meet me at 11:00pm at the same place he dropped me off. This was 'only five minutes' from the spectator entrance a sequence of young guides assures me, three times in a row.

We make this arrangement in spite of the fact that neither of us speaks a word of the other's language. I write down "23:00" and he understands.

As this ended up being over an hour after the meet concluded and my options were increasingly limited if he did not show, I come to understand that I've left myself in a possibly dicey situation with fewer and fewer options the later it got. And this young guy surely has much better opportunities for fares than driving half an hour from his base to get me.

I move through the tunnel at 22:45.

He's sitting there, waiting for me.

I have midnight soup and salad at an Azerbaijani restaurant across the street from my hotel. Fortunately, the menu also is in English, but it's a feast of context-bending translations topped by "moving with yoghurt." That is the dish: "moving with yoghurt.” Nothing more to indicate what, exactly, might be moving with yoghurt, or, more existentially, why you would want something to move with your yoghurt.

I pledge to order this before I leave Moscow and to report back here. For those of you who are not hard-core track fans, perhaps this will give your World Championships the suspense it needs.

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