Where is Sochi, Anyway?
, is a city of around
340,000 people situated picturesquely on the northeastern coast of the Black
Sea. Winter Olympics on the coast? Well, the Caucasus Mountains are
north and east of the city so even though the city itself rarely freezes, has
an average January temperature of 43 degrees Fahrenheit, and sports palm trees,
there are places not too distant where one can ski. A half-hour
high-speed train ride will deliver spectators to mountain locales.
Snowfall has not been especially heavy so game organizers planned ahead
and piled last year's snow into gullies, covering it through the summer.
Snow machines will have to make up any shortfalls for the alpine
Sochi has been a resort destination for Russians for a hundred
years and even Stalin built himself a retreat there. The city boasts
impressive neoclassical architecture, a lively social scene and those pleasant
temperatures. Events such as hockey, speed skating and curling can of
course be held indoors and a number of in-town centers and arenas have been
built in what is known as the Olympic Park.
Issues Surrounding the Games
Current Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the upcoming
Olympic Games his special project, hoping it will enhance his standing in world
politics and Russian history. Money has been poured into the construction
of the Olympic sports venues at astounding rates and these Games, already
costing over 50 billion dollars, will be the most expensive ever, by far.
That's nothing new, as many previous Games have been astronomically
expensive, but other political pressures may spoil the Russian festivities.
Talk of boycotting the Games over Russia's harsh laws regarding gay
and lesbian rights has put a damper on the celebratory mood. Putin
attempted to lighten the image of the government by releasing a number of
political prisoners, but worse problems followed shortly. Terrorist
bombings in Volgograd in recent days, likely by separatists from the North
Caucasus region have shaken Putin's declaration that these games will be
completely secure. Volgograd
is a good 400 miles
northeast of Sochi, but will be a major travel connection for those visiting
the Sochi games.
So Sochi has its work cut out for it as the Opening Ceremonies of
February 7th draw closer, and as always, expectations are high. Despite
the many difficulties plaguing the process, the Olympics almost always pull
through and deliver a stunning show of pageantry and astounding feats of sports
performance. Putin and a lot of other Russians are staking their
reputations on it.
Here's an interesting side note on Sochi. Although it won't
be ready by Olympics time as was once hoped, and doesn't even appear to have
begun yet, a massive project has been Putin-approved for an area offshore near
Sochi. Called Federation Island, it may someday be a collection of
man-made islands shaped like the map of the Russian Federation
, featuring hotels,
apartment buildings, villas, entertainment centers and more. Located 150
meters off shore, 2.5 kilometers long and 1.5 kilometers wide, the island (or
islands) would boast underground auto parking for the 40,000 guests and
residents. Or you could pull into one of the 900 yacht slips.
Environmentalists are cringing, but this hugely grandiose development has
been hailed as another jewel in new Russia's emerging status. In reality,
actual construction progress since the 2007 announcement appears to be nil.
However it does make for a great graphic. For a list of products related to Sochi, Russia and the Winter Olympics, please visit Sochi products page