When the XXII Winter Games happen Feb. 7-23 in Sochi, Russia, NBC10 News Today coanchor and sports reporter Vai Sikahema will be there. It’s his eighth Olympics, and he’s got plenty to talk about.
MLT: What’s the best part of covering the Olympics?
VS: My favorite stories are those of athletes who’ve put aside their lives for four years or more to chase a dream that, for most of them, isn’t going to result in a multimillion-dollar endorsement contract. Those are the people I love talking to, because they do it for the love of the sport and the spirit of athletic competition.
MLT: What sort of advance work do you do?
VS: Actually, we don’t have a single athlete from the Delaware Valley going to this Olympics. My job is to hit the pavement and find stories with local angles that our viewers want to see. There might be a volunteer from Paoli who’s there for his 10th Olympics, and that’s a great story. Another example is Tara Lipinski, the figure skater, who will be there as a broadcaster. She grew up in Sewell, N.J., and trained in Delaware. Johnny Weir, another skater, also grew up in the Delaware Valley.
MLT: You’ll be gone for quite a while. Who goes with you?
VS: I’ll be gone almost a month, from Jan. 29 to Feb. 24. Our executive sports producer is going to work for the network on its nightly wrap-up show. A technician and photographer are coming, but sometimes the photographer is pooled, so I may not see him all the time. Quite honestly, I’m on my own a lot.
MLT: Where do you stay?
VS: We’re staying at a Hilton. But I’ve heard that the hotel isn’t finished, and there’s a building craze to complete everything by the time we arrive. In terms of living conditions for journalists, two of the best Olympics were Beijing and London. But I’ve stayed in all kinds of places during the Olympics. In Sydney, we stayed in an insane asylum. Seriously. It was nice for what it was.
MLT: Are you worried about security?
VS: I was in Atlanta for the Olympics when the bombing happened. But that was before 9/11, and security has changed by leaps and bounds since then. My experience is that, for the two weeks of the Olympics, the host city is the most secure place on the planet. A guy like Vladimir Putin will pull out all the stops to make sure of that. I don’t have any real concerns.
MLT: Olympic swag is highly coveted. What souvenirs do you have from past Games?
VS: To be honest, a lot of it ends up in piles in my home. I’ll tell you what made my wife the happiest: silk from Beijing. I went to the silk market, looked for things that I thought she’d like, and brought back a few reams. She loved them.
MLT: What nonsporting activity are you most looking forward to?
VS: I love to travel. Sochi is not in a part of the world that I have on my top 10 list—and that makes me more interested in it. What’s there
will be new and interesting to me and to our viewers. I’m not a drinker, so Russian vodka has no appeal. But I am a foodie. Russian caviar will be amazing. Whatever the most expensive caviar is, I’ll go find it. That will be one of my first assignments.