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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 youll get a birds-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.

Thats the Russia that President Vladimir Putin wants you to see.

Russias 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 Sochis 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

Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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