by Rich Landesberg
With apologies to Jimmy Buffet, we are in no need for boat drinks here. The temperature was hovering just above freezing as we arrived in Riga. The beautiful square in the picturesque old town still had the Christmas market on and that included a large Ferris Wheel in the center.
It was our first stop on our walking tour of Riga and many of our students took advantage of a chance to see the city from a new height and different perspective.
Our city walk allowed us a great opportunity to start learning about the importance of Latvia in the European Union and to explore some of its history. But we got a great chance to understand the people better at the big ice hockey game that night.
The KHL, the Kontinental Hockey League, is second only to the NHL, according to some folks we spoke with. And we got to see one of the bigger rivalries: Riga versus Moscow. All of us, of course, we’re rooting for the home team . The cheering wasn’t difficult as all the music and cheers were the same as what y0u might hear at an NHL game, only in a different language. The fans wore all the familiar paraphernalia, except for sponge fingers. All around the rink and the luxury sky boxes, advertising abounds. Plenty of sponsors are represented on the ice and VW has exclusive advertising rights on the Zambonis.
Nothing special here except when you remember that less than 25 years ago, Riga wasn’t playing Moscow, it was being controlled by Moscow. Twenty five years ago, there was no advertising because there was nothing to advertise. Team jerseys weren’t available and the average Latvian wouldn’t have the money to buy one if they were. And there were no cheering fans because there was so little to cheer about. Last night, in the new Riga free of Soviet rule for two decades, there was plenty to cheer about at the hockey game. Dinamo Riga beat OHK Dynamo Moscow, 4-2. As our students, the newest fans of this hockey club chanted all night: Riga, RIGA!!
You can find more information about Dinamo Riga here: http://www.dinamoriga.eu/en