The Sochi Network

Far-flung reporter travels almost 10,000 miles to cover Olympics

The Sochi Network

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Emily Ridlington works in Iqaluit, Nunavut in Canada (Special to Yahoo Sports)

Sometimes the clichés about the Olympics being the world's gathering place are true.

They certainly resonate for the young reporter in the ski hat and slip-on shoes at the sliding centre on Monday. She took five flights, three different airlines and three days to get here.

Emily Ridlington is from the Arctic. She lives in Iqaluit, Nunavut, where the average high temperature in the month of February is 9.9 degrees below zero. There are no traffic lights. There are no trees. Common meals in the Canadian town include char, caribou and whale – which Ridlington describes as "a unique flavour".

Ridlington, 26, grew up in New Brunswick, went to school in Ottawa and moved to Nunavut to work as a journalist. She got a job at CBC, so she reports on 25 surrounding communities. The capital city is accessible only by air or boat, so her commutes to work are often by plane.

In order for her to get to the Olympics, where she gathers quotes for the Olympic News Service, she had to fly three hours south to Ottawa, then Chicago, then Houston, then Moscow, then Sochi. Her flight to Ottawa alone cost $2,000, because fuel costs to Nunavut are so high and flights are so infrequent.

She's hardly sick of the Arctic, though. She celebrated her four-year anniversary there this week, and she raves about telling stories of neighbours who speak Inuktitut (the native language) and teach her to sew from seal skin. She is one of the Klunaat, or "white people," and she feels at home even as a minority.

Iqaluit is actually a growing community. It was founded as an American airbase for refuelling during World War II, and it's now up to nearly 7,000 people. Most are Inuit, but an increasing amount are Filipino, Indian and members of other immigrant groups who arrive looking for work. That's caused one of the major challenges of living in Nunavut: food security. Iqaluit means "place of many fish," but it's not a place of much food. Prices for supplies are astronomical – five times what we pay at the corner store – so there is always pressure to find and finance the next meal. There are only three grocery stores in the town.

"Some families can't afford it," Ridlington said. "People go hunting. Oftentimes people will go without. We can't grow anything."

The Olympic trip is a gift in that respect. Ridlington brought three huge suitcases to Ottawa, left them with a friend and will fill them with food for her trip back. She doesn't expect to leave her region again for six months or more.

There are, of course, other advantages to this trip: the accommodations paid for by the IOC, the chance to experience the Olympics and the balmy temperatures. Some of the lows in Sochi during these Games would be record highs for Iqaluit in February. (Hence the slip-on shoes.) "This is warmer than my summer," she said. "I'm loving it."

There's also the daylight. Winters don't bring much sun, and the holidays bring sunrise at around 10 a.m. and sunset around 3 p.m. In some of the communities she covers further to the north, Ridlington says children are let out for recess in the pitch dark. She has more difficulty in the summer, however, because she has to try to sleep in broad daylight.

As for sports, broomball is popular in Nunavut. It's a combination of hockey and football, played with a small ball and a stick with a rubber-moulded triangular head. The Canadian Broomball Federation is a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee, so maybe one day broomball will be at the Winter Games.

If so, the media already has at least one expert in the field.

Eric Adelson, Yahoo! Sports

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