The news is out – surprising many, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) yesterday decided upon Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Their site, sochi2014.com, says: “real snow guaranteed!” It’s an interesting twist for a country that has dominated the sport of figure skating yet has never hosted a Winter Olympics. (Runners-up were Pyeongchang, South Korea and Salzburg, Austria.)
Some facts I learned about Sochi: it has a population of 450,000 “representing over 100 nationalities” according to Sochi Daily Photo. It’s located on the Black Sea, near the Russian border and is generally considered a resort city. The reason it works for the Winter Olympics is the nearby mountains where people like Russian President Vladimir Putin, who personally presented the bid in Guatemala, take their vacations. It’s at a similar latitude to Rome and Sarajevo.
Supposedly by hosting the Games in Sochi, the area will gain a great deal through rebuilding. According to Reuters, “Russia has earmarked $12 billion for the wider Sochi area… to revamp slopes, infrastructure and accommodation and turn the city into a winter sports hub for athletes and tourists.” I can’t wait! There will be two Olympic Villages – the main one or “coastal cluster” in the valley along the sea for the ice events and the secondary “mountain cluster” in the Krasnaya Polyana mountains.
I went to Russia in 1989 when it was still officially the U.S.S.R. I carried my figure skates with me for 3 weeks touring the region – from Leningrad to Riga, Latvia, past Chernobyl to Odessa, Ukraine and finally back to Moscow where I took a packed subway train filled with sweaty Russians, skate blades digging into my bag through my backpack, to the Russian sports complex only to discover the rink was closed for annual maintenance. I was crushed. I’ll never forget that day.
It should come as no surprise that I’m already planning to attend the Sochi Games and if at all possible, I’ll be volunteering at the figure skating rink. For the Salt Lake Games, there was a large demand for people with experience working on figure skating events, but I was too late signing-up. Since I speak some Russian and have experience managing skating events and competing, I’m hoping I can be of use. In any case, it should be a sight to behold. There will probably also be tours put together by some American groups that always develop tours for the major international skating events for anyone who’s interested.