VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Section by section, Russia and Latvia fans at Hockey Place raised their hands as the "wave," that unavoidable sports arena tradition, swept over them during Tuesday night's Olympic men's quarterfinal. It consumed fans wearing hockey jerseys, draped in flags, holding up scarves, and, of course, dressed as mythical Eastern European holiday figures.
The long white beard and the bright red coat stood out in the crowd: It was a Russian fan dressed head to boots as Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost), who brings gifts to good boys and girls during the winter holidays. Only he goes door to door instead of down the chimney, has a slender build, and doesn't mess with reindeer.
So why was he attending an Olympic hockey game? Glad you asked.
Rather than just being an extravagantly dressed fan, this was actually a bit of viral marketing for the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia, which have a large presence at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Ded Moroz was posing for photos and handing out the items on the right: a promotional pin for the games and a pocket calendar that goes all the way to 2014.
Underneath the image of Ded Moroz it reads: "The main reasons for having a Russian Ded Moroz as a mascot for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014." The book is a collection of images featuring Ded Moroz competing in various winter sport. Propaganda ad copy accompanies cartoons that are, admittedly, adorable.
With translations via Puck Daddy's Dmitry Chesnokov, a look inside some of the pages in this unique Sochi advertising:
The first page: "Ded Moroz is a folk hero. His image was not generated by someone. He has no author."
The second page: "The image of Ded Moroz is understood by citizens of many countries as an equivalent of their own national symbols."
The first page: "Ded Moroz is a symbol of winter. Sochi will host a Winter Olympics."
The second page: "Ded Moroz is a symbol of hospitality. Everyone who is visited by him is happy to see him."
Finally, this copy, located inside the calendar:
"Ded Moroz supports the main ideas of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee: The Sochi Olympic Games will be the most innovative and will inspire the world! The Olympic Games are a strong motivation for children and adults to exercise! The Sochi Games are a focus of the entire country, and we should make it happen together! The Sochi Games are a window into the future! A new future for our children!"
Well, Russia has certainly upped the ante for the NHL, which might not allow its players to compete in 2014. Now the league is in danger of angering both Alex Ovechkin and Grandfather Frost. And you wouldn't like Grandfather Frost when he's angry.