SOCHI, Russia - The spirit of the Olympic Games includes just as much cultural collaboration as competition, so speaking the language of the host country goes a long way to extending international goodwill.
The members of the U.S. men's and women's Olympic teams here say they have found the Russian hosts friendly and responded by learning a few key pleasentries in Russian.
Women's team forward Kelli Stack said in addition to her go-to phrases like "thank you," she and her teammates try to practice pronunciations based on the bus system intercoms in the Olympic Park that announce the next stops.
"We all try to mimic him and say everything that he's saying," she said.
Forward Max Pacioretty's wife, Katia, is a native of Moscow and has visited Russia before, so he's familiar with the culture, if not yet the language.
"I just know the basic words to get you by and then I know some swear words as well," he said with a smile. "The most important thing for me is that I'm able to tell what people are talking about based on their body language based on hanging out with my wife and family for so long."
Teammates have yet to ask Pacioretty for any assistance with the language, which he attributes to them not know that he has ties to the country.
"I don't think everyone on my team knows my situation with that," he said, adding that the U.S. Olympic Committee language DVD has helped the players adjust.
Signage around the Olympic Park is prominently displayed in Russian, English and, in most cases, French. The volunteers almost all speak English as well, making life easier on players on the other side of the world from their homes in the U.S.
"The normal please and thank you is about all I know," said men's forward Dustin Brown. "Everyone pretty much speaks English so it's really easy time for us."
Stack said volunteers and fans light up when players say "thank you" or "please" in Russian.
"They give us a little laugh and smile, I think it makes them happy that we're trying to learn their language and experience their culture," she said.
The fans at the hockey games for men's and women's games have been intense, packed and active. Regular "shaybu" chants, a Russian chant for a goal that means "puck," rain down on the ice. Against Canada, the U.S. women's team had the Russian crowd's full support.
"The crowds have been really fun and if they say shaybu, then now I'll know they're cheering for us," said Jocelyne Lamouruex when told that the chant was to support Team USA.
The support and intensity in the Shayba Arena and Bolshoy Ice Dome need no translation, and while the Russian fans have been accomodating, they are likely to give the men's team a hostile environment for Saturday's game.
"It's going to be fun and the building is going to be energetic," Ryan Kesler said.
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Tag(s): 2014 - Sochi, Russia