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21 Feb, 2014 15:35

How Jimmy Kimmel pranked US media with '#SochiFail: Wolf in my hall' video

A video of a wolf wandering through a hallway of a Sochi Olympic dorm posted by American luger, Kate Hansen, caused media frenzy in the US. Little did they know that the clip was filmed and placed on Hansen’s page by a US comedy talk show.

In Olympic Sochi, wild animals stalk you in your dormitory and packs of stray dogs roam the streets at night. That is what one probably can believe after watching too many US media reports coming from Russia’s Black Sea resort where the 2014 Winter Games are taking place.

But with all the internet freedom today, a reader can always turn to first-hand Sochi reports posted by the athletes on their social media channels.

This is what about 1.9 million viewers did after US Olympic luger Hansen posted a 17-second clip titled “Epic #SochiFail: Wolf in my hall” on Wednesday. The viral video showed a timber wolf curiously exploring a hallway of what appeared to be a dorm in one of the Olympic villages in Sochi.

Gasping “Oh my god!” the woman nearly closes the door of her room, but continues filming until the canine disappears round the corner.

Within hours, Hansen’s video was being broadcasted on nearly all major US media websites and channels. CNN, FOX and NBC presenters described chilly details of “the wolf of Sochi” encounter, saying that “there is no word of how it got inside an Olympic village.”

Various “experts” could then be seen debating over the canine’s breed, some claiming it might have been a husky-type dog or a wolf mix, the others adamantly stating it was indeed a wolf.

The debate was over only after the host of an ABC channel late night show, comedian Jimmy Kimmel, came up with the whole version of the video. The wolf on the video turned out to be real – but not the Sochi dorm.

The clip was in fact filmed in a studio setting in California at the backstage of the Jimmy Kimmel Live! show. According to Kimmel, it took some 15 hours to construct an exact replica of the Olympic village dorm hallway based on a photo sent by Hansen.

A tame wolf called Rugby was hired for the job.

Hansen, who conspired to post the video for Kimmel’s show, said the prank was “worth it in the end” despite “a little bit more backlash” than she expected. The Olympic village security certainly did not find the wolf clip entertaining.

“Security started freaking out, because technically it was a breach. You know, athlete safety. It kind of went a little crazy here,” Hansen told Kimmel via Skype from the real Sochi dorm.

The embarrassed US channels immediately came up with new stories on “Olympic-sized fake.”

“As soon as she [Hansen] posted it, the media went nuts – which is what I was hoping for,” Kimmel confessed in his show, presenting the athlete with a “gold medal for pranking” and asking if she would consider bringing a live bear to the closing ceremony of the Sochi Olympics.

“The girl who tweeted wolf” may indeed get away with another such prank, as according to a whole host of world media, Russia is still a wild country with bears in the streets, where anything could happen. What makes it even more funny is that some of the audience is still prone to believe it.

Kate Hansen of the U.S. reacts after completing the final run in the women's singles luge event at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, at the Sanki Sliding Center in Rosa Khutor February 11, 2014. (Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann)