The 2014 Winter Olympics open officially on Friday night in Sochi, and while the inaugural ceremonies are expected to be a spectacle of grand proportions, the same cannot be said of the Russian resort town’s overall preparedness to host the event – a matter that was on the minds of many sports fans leading up to the event.
Despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s best efforts to make this year’s Winter Olympics a significant tourist draw, reports from Sochi indicate that the reality of the situation is quite the opposite. Dina Kobolenko, who mans a tourist information stand near the Sochi train station, said that as of two days prior to the opening ceremonies, she has only encountered one foreigner – a tourist from South Korea. (And while they were unable to converse without resorting to sign language, it seems that they were able to sort things out.)
There is also a train designed to carry tourists between the Olympics sites and downtown Sochi. And while there are signs happily greeting English-speaking tourists (“We wish you a pleasant journey!”), a four-car train was found to be half empty and completely devoid of foreign fans.
Yet some of the most interesting revelations about the situation in Sochi come from people (particularly international reporters) who arrived there and checked into their hotels a few days prior to the start of the games. Here are a few choice posts from some Twitter accounts:
— Stacy St. Clair (@StacyStClair) February 4, 2014
People have asked me what surprised me the most here in Sochi. It's this. Without question … it's … THIS. pic.twitter.com/1jj05FNdCP
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) February 4, 2014
— Harry Reekie (@HarryCNN) February 4, 2014
— Sochi Problems (@SochiProblems) February 4, 2014
— Steph Stricklen (@StephStricklen) February 6, 2014
Citius, Altius, Fortius: Here’s looking at you, Sochi.
Alberto González is the Associate Editor of Aleteia’s English edition. His prior endeavors have included working in political campaigns and in the United States Senate. He also maintains an active schedule as a liturgical vocalist and organist.
A native of California, Alberto graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2010 with a B.A. in Music and Political Science. He currently lives in the greater Washington, D.C. area.