Sochi in February 2015
One year after the Olympic Winter Games
by Olivia Kroth
What does Sochi look like today, in February 2015? Sochi has preserved its heritage, while changing into a modern luxury resort on the Russian Black Sea coast, due to major changes undergone in preparation for the Olympic Winter Games, in February 2014. “An Olympic heritage is solid capital in the world of alpine skiing. One can live on its interest for many years”, Sergey Kurdyukov writes in the AEROFLOT MAGAZINE (February 2015, pp. 190-193). This is true for the Caucasian ski resort of Krasnaya Polyana as well as for the coastal resort of Sochi. Mountains and sea, snow and sunshine: “the energy created by the proximity of these great elements is fantastic.”
In February 2013, the countdown for Sochi 2014 was officially celebrated. President Vladimir Putin pressed the symbolic countdown button for the games and said in his speech: “The work taking place in Sochi and around is unprecedented in Russia’s modern history. The area’s unique natural conditions and the infrastructure we have put in place will make these games the most convenient for the sportspeople and thousands of visitors. The games will leave a legacy of unprecedented scale that will bring enormous benefits for Sochi itself and for developing sport in Russia.”
The President loved and still loves Sochi. He goes to the Krasnaya Polyana skiing resort in the Caucasus Mountains as often as his busy schedule will permit and receives prominent guests in his Sochi residence. Sochi, this unique city, a beautiful spa located in Krasnodar Krai, stretches about 145 kilometres along the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus. It is Russia’s only humid, subtropical zone, where visitors can see palm trees and other exotic plants, commonly not seen in the Russian Federation, other than in the glass houses of botanical gardens.
Sochi is attractive at any time of the year. Picturesque landscapes and exquisite architecture are waiting, furthermore sun-bathed beaches, as far as the eye can see. Regular flights from Moscow and other Russian cities serve the beautiful Black Sea coast. Regular trains also run between many cities of Russia, including Moscow, and Sochi. With nearly 400.000 inhabitants, Sochi is Russia’s largest resort city. It was founded in 1838 and colonized by Armenians, Belorussians and Russians. In 1878, the first Russian Orthodox church was built, Saint Michael’s Church. In February 1890, the construction of the Sochi lighthouse followed.
Around the turn of the century, Sochi became a very popular sea resort, because Tsar Nicolas II and his family had a summer residence there. Famous Russian artists, poets and singers liked to spend their summers in Sochi. Its popularity continued in Soviet times, with many hotels, restaurants and cafés built during this period. Joseph Stalin owned a dacha in Sochi, today a museum. The leader’s wax statue is its main attraction. During Joseph Stalin’s time, many imposing neo-classical buildings were erected in the resort, for example the Rodina and Ordzhonikidze Sanatoriums.
The Sochi Art Museum also dates back to that epoch, built in 1939, according to the neo-classical design of Ivan Zholtovsky. The Winter Theatre, constructed between 1934 and 1937, is another neo-classical edifice, surrounded by 88 Corinthian columns. The statues of the ancient Greek Muses – Terpsichore, Melpomena and Thalia – were cast by Vera Mukhina. The Railway Station, constructed in 1952, is another remarkable neo-classical building. The Maritime Passenger Terminal, finished in 1955, is notable for its 71 metre high steeple tower and four statues, symbols of the four cardinal points.
Sochi: Orkhonikidze Sanatorium
For nature lovers, there is the Arboretum, a large botanical garden with tropical trees, and the Riviera Park, founded by Vasily Khludov in 1883. It offers a variety of attractions, among them the “glade of friendship”, in which all the Soviet cosmonauts planted a magnolia tree. Speaking of cosmonauts, the Town History Museum displays the Soyuz 9 capsule, which returned to Earth in June 1970, after 18 days in the orbit.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Caucasian Biosphere Reserve lies to the north of Sochi. On nearly 3.000 square kilometres, it hosts over 120 lakes. About 22 percent of the reserve consists of forest, untouched by human hands, a unique place to enjoy nature, take a walk and rest.
For lovers of literature, the Sochi Pushkin Library is worth a visit. A two metre bronze sculpture of the famous Russian poet, unveiled on the 27th of May 2012, greets the visitor at the entrance. On its centenary, the impressive building underwent large-scale renovation and technical re-equipment. Modernist and neo-classical architecture, together with lavish interiors, make this building yet another landmark in the resort city. Its book collection comprises thousands of items, which are accessible online as well. The Pushkin Library hosted some special cultural events during the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.
Each summer, the city celebrates the Kinotavr Festival. It has become a key market for Russian domestic movie projects. “If a film has to do with Russia and will be in Russian, anyone is welcome to participate,” the curator, Anna Gudkova, explained in an interview with the Voice of Russia.
Sochi: Passenger Sea Terminal
Many modern buildings have sprung up in the Sochi area as well, since it was chosen as venue of the Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games 2014. The Bolshoy Ice Dome can host up to 12.000 spectators, while the Shayba Arena has been built for 7.000 spectators of ice hockey. The Adler Arena Skating Centre, laid out to hold 8.000 spectators, showed speed skating. The Iceberg Skating Palace, made for 12.000 spectators, featured figure skating and short track speed skating. In the Ice Cube Curling Centre, 3.000 spectators are able to watch curling. The Fisht Olympic Stadium greeted 40.000 spectators at the opening and closing ceremonies.
These additions to Sochi’s infrastructure serve the city and its citizens well, as they generate additional income with global events and international visitors all year round, as Andrei Ponomarenko knows. The owner of the G8 Language Service Company says, “The Bolshoy Ice Dome is attracting between 7.000 and 9.500 fans for every Leopard ice hockey game in Sochi. The Channel One Cup was held there, in September 2014, with teams from all over the world. The Shayba Arena is hosting Cirque du Soleil, in February 2015. The Iceberg Palace showed a musical which ran for six months with five shows a week. The Speed Skating Centre is now a year-round tennis academy. Other venues have held events like the World Chess Championship.” (RUSSIA & INDIA REPORT, 08.02.2015).
Sochi Iceberg Skating Palace
In the Caucasus mountain cluster of Krasnaya Polyana, some interesting new venues have been constructed, too: The Biathlon Ski Complex for biathlon, cross-country and Nordic combined; the Freestyle Skiing and Snowboard Park; the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort for alpine skiing; the Sliding Centre Sanki for bobsleigh, luge and skeleton; the RusSki Gorki Jumping Centre for ski jumping and Nordic combined; the Khutor Plateau Olympic Village. “Wealty Russians are swapping Klosters (Switzerland) for Krasnaya Polyana. The numbers flocking to the ski slopes and trails are huge” (RUSSIA & INDIA REPORT, 08.02.2015).
“State of the art technologies are used here to groom the ski runs”, in February 2015, one year after the Olympic Winter Games, as Sergey Kurdyokov knows, who tried out the famous ski slopes of Krasnaya Polyana himself and reported about them in the AEROFLOT MAGAZINE (February 2015). “From the lower cable car lift station, located in the heart of the Rosa Khutor Resort, about 560 metres above sea level, the ski lift will take youk to the Rosa Plateau, 1.170 metres high, Besedka at a height of 1.350 metres, or even the Rosa Peak at an ultimum height of 2.320 metres.”
Krasnaya Polyana: Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort
The journalist and skier, Sergey Kurdyukov, is enthusiastic about Rosa Khutor: “This was the hub of the Olympics. Now, anyone can come down these ski runs, where memories of the sharp edges left by the champions still linger. Experience the thrill that is hard to find anywhere else. A flight to Adler and a train to Krasnaya Polyana, and you are here. Or you can hop on a bus. Even an individual transfer, by international standards, is quite reasonable.”
Rosa Khutor is an ideal place for children, too: “You can come with the whole family to the Rosa Khutor resort. There is a ski and snowboard school for those who want to improve their skills. Children can spend time in the games room or make their first independent steps on the slopes under the supervision of instructors from the children’s club.”
Krasnaya Polyana: Endurance Village
“The Rosa Khutor is growing and it is turning into one of the main ski capitals of the world”, Sergey Kurdyokov writes in the AEROFLOT MAGAZINE (February 2015). “What a good idea to go over there soon – take a look at what is new. Now, here is a world-class ski resort. The Olympic tracks were planned by the legendary Bernhard Russi, perfectly blended into the natural terrain and landscape, giving the skier some slip and zip opportunities. And the snow! For such fresh powder, after a snowfall, unique here at this seaside location – any fan of off-piste would give his soul without hesitation.”
He tried it out, “At the Rosa Khutor, everything is rough and honest. The mountain slope is powerful, steep and wild. The maximum grade of even marked out and prepared tracks is about 70 percent. You feel like an animal in the animal world, and so it is – they are right here, side by side, in the National Park Reserve. One can see natural pristine beauty just a chair-lift away from the luxury hotels.”
Krasnaya Polyana: Gornaya Karusel ski resort
Rosa Khutor: 77 kilometres of trails with level change of 1.745 metres; ski pass in high season from January to March 1.850 rubles for adults (one day), 9.700 rubles (six days)
Mountain Carusel: 30 kilometres of trails with level change of 1.340 metres; ski pass in high season from January to March 1.400 rubles for adults (one day), 6.000 rubles (five days)
Laura: 15 trails, total up to 2.320 metres, range from 910 metres to 1.460 metres; various topography and different difficulty levels from “green” to “black”; wide range of opportunities for cross country skiers; ski pass in high season from January to March 1.500 rubles for adults (one day), 8.000 rubles (seven days)
Olivia Kroth: The journalist and author of four books lives in Southern France. Her blog: