Games Bring Best And Worst to Light
Published: January 29, 2014 (Issue # 1795)
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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