The 1st Spring Olympics
Your first reaction to Sochi, the pearl of the ‘Russian Riviera’ (and 2014's Winter Olympics host city) is bound to be one of surprise. For one it’s, well, big. It has traffic, high-rise buildings and an urban attitude that you’d hardly expect from a seaside retreat. And of course it's in Russia. Which is bound to bring along some heated discussion. And while expensive European retail chains affirm its glitzy reputation, a gaggle of dilapidated sanatoriums recall a not-quite-bygone era when Sochi was a very proletarian Soviet spa town.
In short, wealthy developers bent on transforming Sochi into a world-class resort have a project on their hands. But all is not hopeless. They do have miles of prime Black Sea coastline to work with. The sea is warm and reportedly clean. That rocky shoreline? Nothing a little imported sand can’t cure. And the winter playground of Krasnava Polyana is only 90 minutes away, making it possible to enjoy both sea and slopes in late spring.
Comrade Stalin established Sochi as a fashionable resort area. His favorite dacha was built in the city; Stalin's study, complete with a wax statue of the leader, is now open to the public. During Stalin's reign the coast became dotted with imposing Neoclassical buildings, exemplified by the opulent Rodina and Ordzhonikidze sanatoriums. Under Khrushchev Sochi emerged as the unofficial summer capital of the country, so bring a bathing suit! All joking aside, this does sound like a crazy location for a Winter Olympic.
The XXII Olympic Winter Games is set to start soon in Sochi. Critics are calling it the first Spring Olympics. Why? Because Sochi is a beach town. With palm trees. On the same latitude as the Côte d’Azur. The $55 billion project (more expensive than all other Olympics combined) may look nice, but with temperatures expected in the 16°C and 20°C degrees, it may be less Cool Runnings and more Warm Drippings. Russia’s plan: storing millions of cubic feet of ice in custom-built freezers. And if that doesn’t work, Vladimir Putin will launch himself into the sky and punch the clouds until they produce snow.