Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sochi 2014-The Olympic Adventure

A short visit to Sochi for the Olympics:

Plane from Nice to Franffurt to Moscow and finally to Sochi.

Travel adventures always begin at the airport 
A 6 hour stopover in Moscow.

Many people at the Moscow airport do not speak English  but there are kind and helpful Russian people who are willing to help. I met a very nice young lady from Moscow who spoke perfect English I thought she was American. She helped when I could not get money out of the ATM and  was trying to buy food.

I finally found an ATM that I was able to do several transactions in small sums. Thankfully I now had enough money for the taxi in Sochi. 

I was a bit anxious about arriving in Sochi at 1AM alone after hearing stories of no taxies or price gouging taxies. The last thing I wanted to do was take a train into Sochi at 1AM considering the language difference.

Arrival at Sochi airport, found an ATM machine. Cool, I now have enough rubles. Next stop, taxi. Easy. A German couple was heading into the cruise ship and we shared a taxi. Cost 300 rubles. 

I read that the taxi leaves you off outside the secure area and you need to walk to the cruise ship. Picturing walking in the darkness was intimidating. I arrive at the port, fenced area to enter the port, need to pick up a badge to enter the port and then go through security similar to an airport. Then a short walk to the ship, through security again. Check in and then go to room. I lucked out, one level down adjacent to stairway. I had a view of the Black Sea, very nice room with comfortable bed. 
The entire process from arrival at airport was seamless and took one hour. 

The accomodations included full board. After 5 hours sleep, ate breakfast which was a full buffet. 
The food was slightly undercooked but a nice variety.

The days adventure begins. First objectives were pick up my tickets and obtain my spectator pass. I thought that everything was in the same general area. Wrong! I had to take a train into Sochi which was a 45 minute ride. It was easy finding the mall where the ticket office is. The ticket office told me that it would take less time to pick up the spectator pass in Sochi rather than Olympic Park. They gave directions however the directions were only in English. It would have been helpful if they were also in Cyrillic because once you were away from the immediate area the signs were only in Cyrillic. Very disorientating. Despite the language difference, the Russians I met were kind and helpful however unsuccessful in finding where I needed to go. I decided to go to Olympic Park to pick up the spectator pass. 

Arrival at Olympic Park. I found the spectator pass easily but there was a two hour wait for the pass. 
There was a sign that the wait would be less if you were preregistered which I did. There were no other directions although there was a sign saying passport deliverance. After waiting in line for 2 hours I discover the passport deliverance is where I should have gone. The entire process would have taken 5 minutes versus the two hours. Oh well! Laugh and move on.

Entry into park, a lot of walking to get to venue but the park is awesome. Watching Olympic's on TV for years and seeing the Olympic flame and the Olympic Rings was spectacular. 
Most important was the positive energy of the people was palpable. People exhibited Joy, Happiness and fun. During the next few days the sportsmanship and hospitality was evident. A little time for some photos, grab a pizza and made my first event at 4:30. 7 hours later.

I was delighted that the female USA team was playing Austria. USA team won. 
A few more photos and a 25 minute walk to the ship from Olympic Village. Lots of volunteers walking. Very safe.
Dinner on board was a lavish buffet. I had quail and there was a variety of seafood.
Day 2
Breakfast with a nice family from Tucson. This swas the grandparents 17th Olympics. 
Arrival at Olympic Park early and spent the day enjoying the park. First stop was the Super Store. The wait was 2 hours but had a nice chat with a Russian from Moscow. Hockey fan as well. In Store with 10 minutes to spare. Picked up two small items and made it in time for the hockey game. Men's event: Austria versus Slovenia. I did not have a favorite team but since I was sitting with Slovenia fans, I routed for Slovenia.
Walking around Olympic Park in the rain without an umbrella, I was wet and cold but did stay for a Russian Folk Music performance which was excellent. Since there was a long line at the Swiss hospitality house, I went to a very large building with stands with food from different countries. Had a kabob and potatoes. Groups of fans were having friendly cheering shoutouts. No idea what they were saying but fun!

Day 3
After breakfast with one of the female hockey Mom's, headed to the mountain. 
About an hour lovely train ride to the mountain. Then a 30 minute bus ride to the event. A long walk to the ski slope up steps which looked fairly steep. I was about on the 10 th step when a volunteer rescued me. He says You can take a shuttle. Maybe the white hair or maybe he saw me slipping on the ice. I suspect the shuttles were not for spectators. The only other people on the shuttle were the press. The volunteer was Constantine. A nice young man who was so proud of himself because he just learned English. He must have self appointed himself as a Russian ambassador. "What do you think of the Russian people?" Where are you from? He told me he was born in Siberia but now lives outside of Moscow. After telling him my grandfather emigrated from the Soviet Union we had a few laughs as he was teaching me the Russian pronunciation for Vassily. He ended by saying the Russian people "feel". I think I know what he was trying to say. He declined shyly to have his picture taken.

The Men's Slalom was awesome and the USA won the Gold. The entire stadium cheered.
5 hour event. A long day but very enjoyable. Metna few people and will do a separate with photos.

If I were to go to the Olympics again, I have learned how to schedule event tickets and manage time at the Olympics. 
I enjoyed the entire event but exhausted. 

Gold USA

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