We learned three years ago that Alex Ovechkin would be Official Ambassador and torchbearer for the upcoming Sochi Olympics. A centerpiece of the campaign to promote the Games, Ovechkin wields more star power than his peers– as evidenced, for example, by his Twitter feed featured prominently on the Sochi 2014 website— so it makes sense they would want his help sooner rather than later.
With the opening ceremonies just five months out, the next big promotional push is the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic torch. Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee President Dmitry Chernyshenko says he will have Alex Ovechkin there. In Greece. At the end of September.
Right as the NHL season begins.
On September 29th we will light up the torch in Olympia, and for the next week it will travel through Greece; on October 6th we will deliver it to Moscow – and then promptly to the Red Square. There will be many interesting events. Who will be the first Russian [to carry the torch] in Greece, and who will be the first on Red Square? That is a secret, intrigue, and we will try to keep it until the end. But they will be people who are recognized and loved by everybody.
Will Ovechkin be among them? Nothing can be hidden from you! It is true; Ovechkin will participate in the Greek part of the torch relay, but will he be the first carrier or not – I will not tell you right now.
We shouldn’t be surprised that the Sochi organizers want Ovechkin to participate in the torch relay. It is, however, somewhat puzzling that they seem so assured of his participation considering the lighting ceremony will take place just two days before the opening game of the Capitals 2013-14 season.
The Capitals organization clarified its position to RMNB via email:
The Russian Federation has expressed interest in having Alex participate in the daylong opening ceremony in Greece. We are still in the early stages of the process and are working through the logistics but the decision has not yet been made with respect to his participation.
So will Ovechkin make a dash across the Atlantic– a 10+ hour trip each way, racking up 11,000 frequent flyer miles– to participate in an Olympic promotion just as his team prepares to face off against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks on national TV?
We’ll see. In hindsight, these sorts of conflicts were inevitable.