winter olympics

Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

The 2014 Winter Olympics have entered the record books. The Olympic flame has been extinguished, and athletes and reporters are packing up and heading home from Sochi. 

NPPR's Sonari Glinton joins us from Sochi. 

Meanwhile in Michigan, Michael Lee speaks with Mercedes Mejia. Lee is a professional mime and physical acting coach. He's worked with 10 of the 24 figure skating ice dance teams at the Sochi Olympics this year, including Michigan natives Meryl Davis and Charlie White who are bringing home a gold medal. He also works with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.

Lee says he helps the skaters become performers by teaching them how to animate their bodies. He learned miming from the late Marcel Marceau, an acclaimed French mime.

Lee explains the physical acting techniques he shows the ice dancers. It's all about breath, body movement, and emotions. 

Listen to the full interviews above.

U.S. Olympic Team / Facebook

Why in the world are the Winter Olympics in Sochi, one of Russia’s warmest places?  

Chalk it up to corruption – both the Russians’, which we’ve come to expect, and the International Olympic Committee’s – which we’ve also come to expect.

The IOC hasn’t just shown a willingness to be bought, but an insistence.

That’s how you get a Winter Olympic skating rink built in the shade of palm trees. The warm weather is funny, unless you spent your entire life training for these Olympics, and there’s no snow. Then it’s just heartbreaking.

Just what do you want your city, your community, to look like? Crowded bustling streets? Quiet, residential homes only? Zoning laws determine these things, and although those two words don't sound altogether exciting, zoning laws are creating debate all over the state. We found out more on today's show.

Then, what was that noise outside today? Did you hear it? Sounded like thunder? Well, in this crazy Michigan weather, we're getting thundersnow. We found out about this winter novelty.

And, we spoke with the man who designed and painted the masks on the U.S. Olympic hockey teams. 

Also, we checked in with Daniel Howes on the UAW bid to unionize workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

And, head to Ford Field on Saturday if you want to be part of a world record. ComePlayDetroit is organizing the world's largest indoor yoga session at the home of the Detroit Lions.

First on the show, the state of Michigan is ending its exclusive contract with the Education Achievement Authority to oversee the worst-performing schools in the state.

Michigan School Superintendent Mike Flangan sent a letter to the EAA saying the state will pull out of its exclusivity agreement with the Authority one year from now.

Martin Ackley is with the Michigan Department of Education. He says the state still intends to use the EAA to help turn around struggling schools.

“Now, this is in no way a statement or an indication of a lack of confidence in the EAA or its academic strategies. This is just an action that needed to be taken in order to provide flexibility and to provide options other than the EAA in which to place these most-struggling schools.”

So, what are the other options the state might use to help failing schools? And what's ahead for the controversial EAA?

Jake Neher, who covers Lansing for the Michigan Public Radio Network, joined us today.

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As the world watches the U.S. Olympic hockey teams in Sochi, they’re getting a good look at some real, made-in-Michigan artistry.

The masks worn by goaltenders Ryan Miller, Jimmy Howard, and Bianne McLaughlin were all painted by artist Ray Bishop at his shop in Grand Blanc.  

“I started painting masks mostly for young players,” said Bishop. “My first professional mask was for the Detroit Vipers.”

He worked his way up from there. This is not the first time Bishop's handiwork has been featured in the Olympics. He painted goalie masks in 2002, 2006, and 2010.

For this year's games, Miller’s mask features Uncle Sam holding the Sochi torch. Howard's has a stars-and-stripes pattern. Brianne’s mask sports the shield from the U.S. jerseys. 

“It really just gives you goose bumps ... to think how many people actually can see a piece of artwork that you’ve done," Bishop said. "I can say I’m pretty fortunate to have the opportunity to do it.”

You can listen to our conversation with Bishop below.


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They reached the pinnacle yesterday: Michigan's Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the gold medal in ice dancing at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

They became the first Americans to do so, and they did it even with all the pressure of being the favorites to win the competition.

The two came to our studios last year right before their gold medal performance in the World Championships.

Their conversation with Cynthia Canty gives good insight into their solid and steady nature, and how they managed to live up to, and even exceed, the expectations at the Olympics.

Some of the things they credited to their success:

  • A hard-work ethic, even as kids (they're on the ice five hours a day, five days a week)
  • Parents who encouraged them, but were not too pushy
  • An incredible coach, Marina Zoueva of Russia
  • And White doesn't call it "swagger," he just calls it "a lot of confidence." 

Take a listen below:

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The Winter 2014 Olympics began today in Sochi, Russia. America's athletes will once again be sporting designs by Ralph Lauren.

 

What you might not know is that the sweaters and caps they'll be wearing for the closing ceremonies will be made from yarn produced in Michigan.

Debbie McDermott is a shepherd, a spinner and a fiber artist. She owns Stonehedge Fiber Mill in East Jordan, and she joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

After years of debate, Congress has sent the almost $1 trillion farm bill to President Obama, and, as usual, opposition to the legislation was a left-right affair. On today's show: Congressman Dan Kildee of Flint joins us to talk about why he voted in favor.

Then, Michigan Radio’s political commentator Jack Lessenberry explained why fixing Michigan’s voting system may be harder than you think.

And, medical students are reaching out to provide health care to uninsured people. We spoke with one of these students about free student-run medical clinics.

And, a new mobile and Web app is providing food for hungry children in Grand Rapids.

Also, we spoke to an economist from the University of Michigan about the success of Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty.

And, the owner of Stonehedge Fiber Mill in East Jordan, Michigan, joined us today to tell us about how she was approached to provide yarn for the Ralph Lauren Olympic closing ceremonies sweaters. 

First on the show, it's Thursday, which means it's time for our weekly check-in with Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes.

He's been going through Gov. Snyder's proposed budget for the new fiscal year and has decided the governor's got something going for him: what President George Herbert Walker Bush called "The Big Mo."

Daniel Howes joined us today to discuss the issue.

U.S. Olympic Team / Facebook

It turns out that Michigan is really good on ice.

We've got 13 Olympic athletes going to Russia. Actually, they're probably already there since the opening ceremony is Friday.

The U.S. team is very serious as you can see.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Some scientists at Dow Chemical in Midland plan to spend some of their break time next month watching TV coverage of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. 

But they’ve got more than the usual rooting interest in one of the Games' more obscure sports.

In a nondescript laboratory deep inside the warren of buildings that make up the massive Dow Chemical complex in Midland, a large machine is shaking and rattling something that looks like a miniature sleigh.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Members of Congress, including one from Michigan, say they have serious concerns about Americans' safety at next month's Olympics in Russia, and they want Moscow to cooperate more on security.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised his country will do all it can to ensure a safe Olympics.

The State Department has advised Americans planning to go that they should keep vigilant about security because of potential terrorist threats, crime and uncertain medical care.