Scoggins: Ready or not, Russia's all in for Olympic Games

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 8, 2014 - 12:35 AM

The locals, despite an avalanche of negative press, view the Olympics as a potential plus for Sochi.

view larger photos

  

– The doors to the train opened and three fuzzy mascots greeted visitors to downtown Sochi with hugs and high-fives Friday evening.

One was a rabbit, one a cat and one … well, still not sure what animal the third mascot was supposed to represent. But the warm welcome and buzz on the streets felt genuine in a city that’s become not only an international dateline but also an international punch line in the lead-up to Friday’s Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics.

Sochi bashing has consumed conversations and news coverage as flaws in the city’s readiness for this massive undertaking have been exposed in gory detail. Maybe that will soften now that the Games have officially started and the focus shifts to the events and games, rather than missing doorknobs and undrinkable water.

“This is a piece of our country,” said a young male on a street corner in downtown Sochi. “For Russian people it’s very important, Winter Olympics, because it’s our presentation of our country. It’s very important for us. It’s very important for young people.”

The man declined to give his name, but he agreed to chat about the impact these Games will have on Sochi and Russia and whether, ultimately, this will be viewed as a positive in the long run.

A picturesque 40-minute train ride along the Black Sea separates downtown Sochi from Olympic Park. The contrast is dark between the bustling downtown and rundown sections of land in the shadows of the Olympic bubble.

Crowds filled the streets around the main train depot in downtown Friday night. Cafes and stores surround a small park in the middle of the square. A band played in a small makeshift amphitheater. Giant murals of Olympic athletes are plastered on high-rise apartment complexes.

Several cafes had televisions tuned to the Opening Ceremony, but the mood inside generally felt subdued. That wasn’t the case at a ticket office at the top of the train debut.

Hundreds of people swarmed the entrance in search of Olympic tickets. Every few minutes the door would open and a few would squeeze in. That led to pushing and screaming; ultimately, security personnel stepped in to keep the peace.

Picture Black Friday at big-box stores when the doors open.

“They want Olympic tickets,” a Russian officer said, explaining the chaos.

It’s difficult to know how Russians truly feel about these Games, in light of the problems and total cost, reportedly at $51 billion.

The intense scrutiny took an even more bizarre twist when Dmitry Kozak, the deputy prime minister in charge of the Olympics, accused Western media of having a bias against his country and suggested that Russia is spying on visitors in their hotel showers, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day,” Kozak said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A spokesman for Kozak later told the newspaper that Kozak made a mistake and that there is no surveillance in hotel bathrooms.

The Russian news agency RIA Novosti cited a poll conducted this week that found that 53 percent of Russians believe their country “did the right thing” by bidding to host the Olympics. Forty-seven percent of those who participated said the total cost of the Games was the result of corruption.

“Of course it’s a lot of money,” the young man in downtown Sochi said. “I don’t think about it because we have oil.”

He stopped and laughed for a few seconds.

“Yes, a lot of money into Sochi now,” he said. “But it’s the Olympic Games. We think it’s OK.”

A young woman who stopped only briefly expressed more skepticism. Asked if she believes the Olympics will be good for Russia and Sochi, she paused and shrugged her shoulders.

“That’s hard to answer,” she said. “We don’t know yet.”

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com





  • related content

  • Photo gallery: Olympics kick off with a splash

    Friday February 7, 2014

    Highlights from the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony.

  • Sochi Olympics kick off with pageantry, eye on Russian history

    Saturday February 8, 2014

    Organizers said the ceremony would take viewers through several centuries of Russian history, guided by a little girl named Lubov, which means “love.’’

  • MyPillow's effort to relieve Olympic shortage falls to red tape

    Saturday February 8, 2014

    As of Friday evening, the pillows were on a plane heading to U.S. Olympic headquarters in Colorado Springs, but it doesn’t appear they will get much farther.

  • Spectators watched Opening Ceremonies of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Fisht Olympic Stadium on Friday. ] CARLOS GONZALEZ cgonzalez@startribune.com - February 7, 2013, Adler, Russia, Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Opening Ceremonies, Fisht Olympic Stadium

  • Tennis great Maria Sharapova took a turn with the torch Friday during the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

  • Supporters waved the Russian flag as the home team made its appearance during the live telecast of the Opening Ceremony.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: F. Doubront 5 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
Cincinnati - LP: A. Simon 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 3
Minnesota 0 Top 1st Inning
Baltimore 0
Philadelphia - J. Williams 6:10 PM
NY Mets - B. Colon
Miami - J. Cosart 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Boston - A. Webster 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi
Cleveland - T. Bauer 6:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
Detroit - K. Ryan 6:10 PM
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt
Texas - R. Ross Jr. 6:10 PM
Houston - S. Feldman
Colorado - T. Matzek 7:10 PM
Arizona - V. Nuno
Chicago Cubs - T. Wada 7:15 PM
St. Louis - M. Gonzales
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke 7:40 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Milwaukee - M. Fiers 8:05 PM
San Francisco - J. Peavy
Oakland - J. Samardzija 8:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Washington - S. Strasburg 8:10 PM
Seattle - R. Elias
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 4th Qtr 2:01
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 Delayed 9:55
(6) Auburn 38
(16) Clemson 21 2nd Qtr 4:17
(12) Georgia 21
Liberty 7 2nd Qtr 7:50
(23) North Carolina 14
Ohio U 14 2nd Qtr 6:17
Kent State 7
Louisiana Tech 0 1st Qtr 14:50
(4) Oklahoma 0
Stephen F Austin 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 6:30 PM
Miss State
Idaho 6:33 PM
Florida
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 FINAL
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 6:30 PM
Montreal
FC Dallas 7:30 PM
Chicago
Real Salt Lake 9:30 PM
San Jose
Portland 9:30 PM
Vancouver FC
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Chicago 0 1st Qtr 9:35
Indiana 0

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many fantasy football teams do you draft?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close