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Buzz Barometer: Sochi is Such a ...
March 29, 2013 18:22

Today we’ll be looking at what some foreigners say about Sochi and the upcoming Winter Olympics which will be held there.

From what I’ve read, Westerners are most impressed – some positively and some negatively – by the scale of the preparations, referring to it as ‘40 miles of constant construction’, ‘swamped by diggers, cranes, lorries and workers’, or, simply, ‘the biggest construction site in the world’.

It’s not the first time we are covering this story, but this time around, I want to focus on what athletes are saying, people who will rely on these facilities to win their long-awaited trophies.

Their success and despair alike will heavily depend on the quality of the infrastructure and the services they will be provided.

So one year before the Olympic event people have been visiting Sochi – either for test events or to do a nice report from a wild, wild place.

We’ll start with the bitter pill.

On her official website, Marie Dorin Habert, a French biathlete, wrote: “Nous sommes à Sotchi, c’est bizarre.” 

I guess it covers it all – the surprise at seeing and living in an unfinished construction site. Now, ‘bizarre’ will be the most popular word that people used in relation to what’s happening in Sochi right now. has made it very clear: “many of the athletes were out of their usual comfort zones and many travelled long distances to attend. The culture shock, language barrier, average food and horrendous weather conditions definitely made things difficult, but everyone was more than up to the challenge.”

But it’s not just that. Correspondents often joke that Sochi is actually a summer resort. That phrase gets absolutely relevant when they discuss snow conditions, which the organizers have claimed to be abnormal for this time of year. The organizing committee also promised to stock up more snow for next year.

But this winter, it obviously wasn’t enough.

X Games echoes the athletes’ frustration with snow: 

“On the third day of the Sochi snowboard and freeski test events, it rained. Again. The bottom of the future Olympic halfpipe turned to slush, throwing snowboarders to the ground who had made long treks to Russia just to ride it.”

The reporter then goes on to talk about the déjà vu feeling that athletes had – the patchy snow cover reminded them of Vancouver.

But it’s not just about impressions, though.

‘A lot of people got hurt, just by riding through the pipe,’ reported Torin Yater-Wallace after ski practice.


Now to more positive reviews.

Here’s what US athlete Lowell Bailey shared with his fans:

“I awoke to brilliant blue skis outside this morning on the mountain top in Sochi, Russia… It is one of the most beautiful vistas I’ve seen with mountains surrounding the entire mountaintop village where we are living.”  

But again, ‘the Sochi Organizing Committee has a TON of work left to do!’

One thing we’ll definitely keep thinking about this year is the complexity of the tracks. He called them ‘brutal’.

‘The course climbs about 300m right out of the stadium and then descends almost 600m before another 600m climb, the longest sustained climb I’ve witnessed on a modern biathlon course. From there, it’s a few hundred meters of undulating terrain and then a fast downhill back into the stadium. All of the courses, from 2km up to 4km incorporate the major climbs I just discussed.’

But overall, he says he is anticipating what he called a ‘great World Cup’.

Canadian CBC has been complaining about lack of English signs but excited with the number of cranes and the beauty of the venues.  

Marie-Eve Drolet, Canadian short track speed skater, quoted by CBC, says:

"I love the ice. It feels good on my skates," she said. "The colours of the arena are perfect.  Blue is a very positive colour. I love the way I feel when I look at it."

CBC’s Scott Russell also caught up with Brian Edey, from the COC sport department, who called it ‘athlete friendly’ pointing out that building the venues in close clusters means the organizers have put athletes first.

In an interview with Pique Newsmagazine, Steve Podborski, Canada's Chef de Mission for the team, has been positive about food:

‘I also got a chance to go out with the skeleton team for dinner and we went to a typical Russian restaurant to see how locals eat. It's very hearty fare, meats and rice and salads and cheeses. Very Russian

So opinions differ, but maybe Canadians are more supportive because they also live in our latitudes and go through harsh winters?

If we feel like sharing your impressions of Sochi, feel free to send us a e-mail or contact us on our Facebook page.

Author: Mikhail Vesely

Tags: Sochi Winter Olympics Sochi    

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