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Games Bring Best And Worst to Light

Published: January 29, 2014 (Issue # 1795)



  • The Bolshoy Ice Dome is part of the complex of facilities operated by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).
    Photo: sochi2014.com

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — If you are flying to Sochi for the Winter Games, book a window seat on the right side of the plane. That way you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of how Russia spent $51 billion on gleaming new sports arenas and a cobweb of highways for this southern city on the Black Sea.

That’s the Russia that President Vladimir Putin wants you to see.

Russia’s bid to host the 2014 Games, which was championed and overseen in the smallest detail by its powerful leader, is supposed to show Russia as a resurgent economy, capable of turning a semi-obscure seaside resort filled with cheesy bars into an international vacation magnet.

All Sochi needs now is some visitors.

All the indoor venues for the Winter Games are tucked into a compact Olympic park next to the Black Sea. The outdoor venues in the mountains are about 45 minutes away on a brand new squeaky-clean train. Athletes, Olympic delegations, journalists and spectators on the day of the event all have free train tickets.

You may also be interested in: A Crumbling Sochi Hides Behind Olympic Facades

Visitors to test events that Sochi hosted last year were pleasantly surprised by the army of young volunteers who spoke good English and were eager to help. Expect to see them inside the Olympic bubble as well as at Sochi’s upgraded airport and train stations.

Olympic Games these days all have stringent security checks and Sochi even more so since an Islamic insurgency is raging just a few hundred kilometers away. Railway stations are circled by temporary fencing and all visitors reach venues through a security zone where they face an airport-like body search and an examination of their bags. Trains are patrolled by policemen who walk down the aisles throughout the journey.

The Olympic venues are all built — some have been operational for a year — but workers are still busy with finishing touches such as landscaping and road paving. Some of their recent work appears makeshift and hasty: palm trees in the middle of a traffic roundabout were clearly withering away with no grass around them, just fake pine needles.

You may also be interested in: VIDEO: Medvedev Takes to CNN to Reassure Sochi Security Fears

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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