Scoggins: Venues ready for Games, rest of Sochi not so much

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 7, 2014 - 12:23 AM

Sochi is only partly ready for the start of the Olympics.

hide

The unlit Olympic torch and Iceberg Skating Palace on the night before opening ceremonies at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014.

Photo: Brian Cassella, Mct - Mct

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– U.S. speed­skater and St. Paul native Maria Lamb took her bike for a spin around the expansive Olympic Park earlier this week. This was a normal training ride, but she couldn’t help but marvel at the different stadiums inside the coastal cluster, the epicenter of these Russian Olympics.

“For the athletes, at least, the venues are beautiful,” she said. “It looks pristine and perfect and gorgeous and ready to go.”

Something else caught her eye, too. A couple of Russian soldiers carrying machine guns, positioned near the Olympic torch. Lamb pulled over for an impromptu photo-op. They didn’t speak English but obliged her request nonetheless.

“I think they were fairly disappointed that I wasn’t terrified of them,” she said. “They were trying really hard not to laugh at me. I was like, you can’t pass up two big burly Russians with huge rifles.”

Hey, now that’s the Olympic spirit, although the International Olympic Committee probably prefers Russia’s tamer slogan of “Hot. Cool. Yours.” in terms of its marketing appeal.

Sochi’s image has taken a beating this week in anticipation of Friday’s Opening Ceremony. Not that the bar was set high in terms of expectations, but Vladimir Putin’s $51 billion ego trip managed to erode what little confidence remained once visitors (and journalists) started to arrive.

Hotels were either unfinished or lacking basic necessities, such as hot water, door knobs and shower curtains. My colleague Rachel Blount tried to open the door to her room after dinner Wednesday night and the handle snapped in two. This after our server at the hotel restaurant informed us that the establishment does not accept credit cards or give change after paying with cash.

Note to the boss: I’m not sure the exact amount of my “tip” since I didn’t have ruble conversion handy, but we’ll bring home the broken door handle and call it even.

It doesn’t take a travel expert to realize that Sochi wasn’t ready for this, at least outside the cocoon of the two clusters of venues. Unfinished construction projects dot the landscape, along with oddly placed shrubs and trees in otherwise rocky fields.

Workers scurry to finish projects or clean up messes. Stray dogs wander the streets, reportedly pursued by a pest control company contracted by the city. Daily reports and Twitter images surface of missing manhole covers and reporters getting locked inside their rooms and dirty water and that peculiar photo of two toilets in one stall that went viral.

Inside the Olympic bubble, however, the view is much different. The various venues encircling Olympic Park are massive and architecturally varied. The Caucasus Mountains provide a stunning backdrop, especially on a postcard day like Thursday with blue skies and temperatures near 50 degrees. (Flip flops seem more appropriate than boots for these Winter Games.)

It’s impossible to ignore or minimize the absurd cost of these Games, the terrorist threats and Putin’s record on human rights. Or what will become of this Black Sea resort locale once the circus packs up and leaves. That’s all part of the narrative, too. But taken as a singular snapshot, Olympic Park looks spectacular and a cool scene for this event.

On the eve of the official opening, Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” and Kool & The Gang’s “Get Down On It” blared from the loudspeakers inside the park as visitors checked out venues and snapped selfies.

The Olympic rings attracted the most attention as fans, Olympic volunteers and even a few athletes stopped and posed for pictures with the symbol of the Games. One man stood underneath the rings and flexed his muscles. A young Russian woman mimicked a runway model before inviting her parents, brother and grandfather to join her for a group shot.

“We’re here for the Opening,” she said.

The athletes stay in the Olympic Village a short walk from the park. A guarded, gated fence surrounds the complex, which abuts the Black Sea and features a long row of stucco apartment buildings. Each country has its own building.

The village was remarkably quiet Thursday afternoon. A few athletes from various countries rode bikes down the road, but the street was mostly empty.

One male Canadian coach opened his window to take in the scene. He marveled at the accommodations inside the apartments but lamented that alcohol is not allowed on the premises.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Philadelphia 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Utah 101 FINAL
Orlando 94
Charlotte 109 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Brooklyn 91 FINAL
Cleveland 95
Washington 105 FINAL
Miami 103
Minnesota 98 FINAL
Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 103 FINAL
Memphis 97
Portland 129 FINAL
San Antonio 119
LA Clippers 106 FINAL
Denver 109
Oklahoma City 104 FINAL
LA Lakers 103
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Ottawa 6
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Detroit 1
Boston 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Calgary 1
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
NC A&T 57 FINAL
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
Bethune-Cookman 46 FINAL
Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
LSU-Alexandria 71 FINAL
ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 68
Seattle 57 FINAL
Minnesota 92
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 48 FINAL
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 56 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
TX-Pan American 60 FINAL
Creighton 75
Colorado State 85 FINAL
Denver 84
Alabama A&M 49 FINAL
Marquette 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 51 FINAL
Texas Tech 72
Eastern Wash 67 FINAL
California 78
Idaho State 56 FINAL
Utah State 69
Arizona 60 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 55
Hawaii 94 FINAL
Chaminade 63
Nevada 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
UCLA 71 FINAL
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 76
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
St Marys-CA 49 FINAL
Virginia 62
McNeese State 55 FINAL
Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
NJIT 62 FINAL
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
Lafayette 58 FINAL
Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miami-Florida 65 FINAL
Tulane 70
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Bowling Green 58 FINAL
Illinois State 54
Arkansas State 78 FINAL
Missouri State 62
ULM 42 FINAL
Wichita State 57
(16) Oregon State 71 FINAL
Southern Ill 55
Pacific 67 FINAL
New Mexico St 62
No Dakota State 79 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 86
Utah State 92 FINAL
Sacramento St 102
Bethesda (CA) 61 FINAL
Fresno State 83
Utah Valley U 44 FINAL
Montana 68
LSU 78 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 45

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Will Christian Ponder ever be a full-time starter in the NFL?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close