Over the last week sporting stars to whom I would never have passed a second glance are now top of mind. Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton, Jessica Ennis, Tatyana Chernova…. Not only their names roll off my tongue but their images are clearly identifiable in my mind.
This has been an amazing day. Kicking off with a morning press conference with Alexander Zhukov, President of the Russian Olympic Committee, whom I first met as Deputy Prime Minister and then rubbing shoulders with the statuesque Tatyana Chernova, the heptathlon bronze medallist and half a dozen of her fellow Russian Olympic medal winners in russia.park media centre was awesome.
BSR of course does not cover sport, except in a business sense.
But it was easy to find the business aspects to the events unfolding around me. The pretty and animated volunteers preparing the floral tributes and gift packs for the Olympic champions were a group from Pyatigorsk in the Caucasus mountains.
Exploring the russia.park public zone afterwards I was entertained by the Cherkass dancers of Ensemble Islamey who had performed so entertainingly at the North Caucasus Resorts presentation on Friday evening; was unimpressed with the blini, sour cream, smoked fish and caviar in the food zone but enchanted by the number of people playing chess.
The Bosco Olympic clothing and souvenir stand proved that London2012 official merchandise prices were too low (a Bosco Russia baseball cap is £30!). I settled for a plastic magnet at £2.50 and a Sochi2014 hockey pin at £10.
Halfway between the park and the Bayswater Road I bumped into Melissa, English volunteer directing visitors to russia.sochi.park who had spent her gap year in Russia, learned the language and was tossing up whether to make her career in journalism or teaching!
In Bayswater I headed to Kalinka, the Russian specialty store, checked out the produce, bought a couple of newspapers and ended the afternoon at the Samovar café eating delicious Serniki prepared that morning by their chef.
Along the way I absorbed the news that Andy Murray had won his singles tennis match against Roger Federer, securing another Olympic Gold for team GB. Heading home I stopped off at Sainsbury’s and bought myself a London2012 T-shirt and a bowl of celebratory Tiramasu. At home I commiserated that Andy and Laura Robson could not defeat the top-ranked Belarussian pair in the mixed doubles and had to settle for silver. Still, a gold and silver medal on the same day is not bad going for Andy Murray.
It has been a weekend to be proud to be British and a week to be honoured to be a friend of Russia.