NBC perks up morale with a private Sochi Starbucks for its staff

Sometimes it takes a little bit of czar-bucking to keep the crew happy, so NBC has bent the rules a bit in Sochi.

Defying an Olympic freeze-out of non-sponsors, NBC has imported a 15-person Starbucks crew from various Russian coffee shops to infuse the network’s huge Sochi crew with some homeland-style brews.

The Wall Street Journal reported the network, which paid $775 million for American broadcast rights, has set up its 24-hour Sochi Starbucks in an area of the media center accessible only to the estimated 2,500 NBC crew members. The paper says NBC flies in a rotating crew of 15 baristas from some of the approximately 70 Starbucks shops in Russia, houses them in Sochi and pays their wages.

NBC has constructed a private Starbucks at every Olympics since the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney.

Strictly speaking, the only branded coffee that is supposed to be available in Olympics facilities is supplied by McDonald’s, a which has a sponsorship agreement. But Rachel Rominger, an IOC representative, told the paper the Starbucks operation falls under the category of "supplementary facilities," making it OK as long as the companies involved don’t publicize or suggest an official association with the Olympics.