Unlike London or Vancouver, traveling to Sochi, Russia, for the Olympics is challenging — even for the parents of a gold medal favorite.
As Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris works on training to win his slopestyle event, his parents have worked on being able to see it. "It's been a challenge, a big challenge," said his father, Don McMorris.
The biggest hassle has been hotel accommodations. The reservation the family booked has changed three times. A Russian travel agency switched their first hotel after security concerns. Their new hotel was double-booked, leading to another.
"We need to make sure we've got lots of patience pills," Don McMorris said. "You can't overreact, because it's out of your control."
The steep price might keep some family members home, including Tracy Barnes. On Sunday, the U.S. biathlete gave her Olympic spot to her twin sister, Lanny, who missed making the team because of an illness. "I would love to go," said Tracy Barnes, whose family is unable to go because of the cost. "I've been trying to get some information on flights."
Amid the winter sports, there are the haves and the have-nots. The national governing bodies for skiing and snowboarding or figure skating have resources that speedskating or curling don't.
U.S. Figure Skating will provide grants of at least $5,000 to the family of each skating Olympian to help defray the cost of the trip. The governing body has partnered with Co-Sport, a travel company and authorized Olympic ticket seller, to set aside a block of rooms at a Sochi hotel for families of the skaters.
Since August, Naama Kellman, U.S. Figure Skating's family and friends program coordinator, has been holding monthly webinars and sending out newsletters to those planning trips to Russia. She had been working with 65 families of potential Olympians until the 15 team members were selected last weekend.
U.S. luge athlete Matt Mortensen, who was an alternate in Vancouver, said he didn't want his family to make travel arrangements to Russia until the Olympic team was selected. "So now it's kind of a last-second thing," Mortensen said. To obtain a Russian visa, documentation of a hotel reservation is required. (His family initially was quoted a package price of $8,000 without airfare.)
They also need to apply for a spectator's pass to enter the Olympic Park and attend events. Those passes can only be secured in advance and require a passport number and photo. All spectators have to be accredited, an Olympic first.
With safety concerns escalating, the national governing bodies of U.S. winter sports held a briefing with State Department officials last week to discuss security measures.
Russian authorities are primarily responsible for security during the Games (about 40,000 police and military personnel have been dispatched to the region), but the U.S. government also provides security for its Olympic delegation.
Athletes have faced more questions about security in light of the bombings in the southern city of Volgograd that killed 34 in December. Most say they are aware of the potential threats but have confidence in the security plans.
"I'm focused on the stuff that I have control over, which is myself and my performance," said luge slider Erin Hamlin, who competed in a test event in Sochi. "Obviously you have to have concerns and you have to be safe about everything. But as long as you're smart, I'm just going to do what they tell me to do. I have confidence that it will be fine."
Several Olympians said they aren't concerned about their family's safety either. First, though, they need to get there.
With hotel rooms, tickets and flights costing thousands of dollars, some athletes have turned to crowd-funding sites to help their families foot the bill.
Last week, U.S. speedskater Jordan Malone booked plane tickets for his wife and mother as a result of donations on the site GoFundMe.com. "I really can't thank you guys enough for your generosity," he posted on his page.
Others have struggled to attract donations online. After failing to reach her goal on the crowd-funding site RallyMe.com, the mother of speedskater Kelly Gunther turned to old-fashioned local fundraisers in Clinton Township, Mich., and Lorain, Ohio. "At one event, a firetruck pulled up with a $250 check," Julie Sprague said. "It was awesome."
The family of speedskater Patrick Meek got creative in planning the trip. Meek doesn't compete until Feb.18 in his 10,000-meter race, 11days after the opening ceremony. Given the logistical issues, his parents will travel to Sochi to see him march in the opening ceremony, then they will spend seven days in Rome before returning for his competition.
"It's less of a hassle that way," Meek said.