Feature

This week’s dream: Sochi—Russia’s oddly inappropriate Olympic city

The Black Sea port that will host the Winter Olympics has been effectively made over “from head to toe to soul.”

The Black Sea port that will host the Winter Olympics next month has been effectively made over “from head to toe to soul,” said Andrea Sachs in The Washington Post. Long the “Summer Capital of Russia,” Sochi never before bothered to cut ski slopes into the surrounding Greater Caucasus Mountains, perhaps because the city’s movers and shakers were too busy enjoying the warm breezes and sunshine that sustain the area’s palm trees and tropical fruit trees. But Russian President Vladimir Putin had a dream of using the Olympics to transform Sochi into a year-round international resort, and neither the climate nor the threat of terrorism could turn back his bulldozers and cranes. Even a month before a pair of December terrorist bombings killed 32 people in Volgograd, military vessels were patrolling the waters off Sochi’s fabled coast.

I arrived during “anti-terrorism week”—a stretch of November when bombings were still a hypothetical and Sochi’s seaside promenade supported a genial outdoor-café scene that felt “more South of France than southwest of Siberia.” But the city was changing before our eyes: Buildings seemed to vanish overnight, replaced by new streets, new bus stops. Within weeks, the Olympic Village and skating events will take over a section of the waterfront, while new trains will transport skiers, bobsledders, and their fans from a new train station through a new tunnel to a new alpine resort about 40 miles away. When I visited, the bases of the slopes were still “loud, messy, and muddy.” But a pristine tram lifted me high above the construction mayhem all the way to the Gornaya Karusel resort’s spectacular 7,283-foot peak.

I eventually spent a full day alone in Sochi without Russian interpreters and guides. I’d already visited a local tea plantation, and found myself on one of those trains, enjoying its cleanliness and quiet. Everything around me was new, except the one feature outside my window that grabbed and held my attention—“the Black Sea, which has soothed Russians’ souls during good periods and bad, from time immemorial.”

At Sochi’s Grand Hotel Zhemchuzhina (zhem.ru/en), doubles start at $134.

Recommended

Israel reportedly behind drone attack on warehouse in Iran
Quadcopter drone
Drone Warfare

Israel reportedly behind drone attack on warehouse in Iran

Erdogan suggests Turkey may allow Finland to join NATO, block Sweden
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Hardball

Erdogan suggests Turkey may allow Finland to join NATO, block Sweden

Boeing to deliver its final 747 plane, bringing an end to the world's most iconic jet
The final Boeing 747 during its rollout.
Farewell, 747

Boeing to deliver its final 747 plane, bringing an end to the world's most iconic jet

10 things you need to know today: January 29, 2023
Protesters in Atlanta following the death of Tyre Nichols.
Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 29, 2023

Most Popular

Boeing to deliver its final 747 plane, bringing an end to the world's most iconic jet
The final Boeing 747 during its rollout.
Farewell, 747

Boeing to deliver its final 747 plane, bringing an end to the world's most iconic jet

5 toons about egg prices
Editorial Cartoon
Feature

5 toons about egg prices

Body cam footage of Tyre Nichols' death released by police
A screenshot from the body cam footage of Tyre Nichols' beating.
Horrific

Body cam footage of Tyre Nichols' death released by police