Sparkling beaches and subtropical weather are not usually the hallmarks of a Russian winter, but it’s safe to say the Sochi Winter Olympics will be an event like no other. Hosted by the resort city of Sochi on Russia’s famous Black Sea coastline, the Games will see representatives from 90 nations compete for a shot at Winter Olympic glory.
Sochi’s temperate climate makes it an unusual venue to host a Winter Olympics, with the average temperature in February hovering close to a balmy 9 °C. The fact it will be the warmest Winter Olympics on record presents a unique challenge to Russian organisers, but authorities have got around it by constructing two distinctive Olympic clusters.
Sochi Olympic Park is the major hub of the 2014 Winter Olympics, located on the Black Sea coast close to Russia’s border with neighbouring Georgia. Site of the main Olympic village and set to play host to skating, curling and ice hockey events, the eye-catching 40,000-capacity Fisht Olympic Stadium is the impressive focal point of the so-called Coastal Cluster.
The Mountain Cluster is based some 60 kilometres inland at Krasnaya Polyana in the shadow of the towering Caucasus Mountains. It’s where many of the traditional Winter Olympic sports will take place, with events such as ski jumping and snowboarding set to draw big crowds. It’s also where the Rosa Khutor Plateau Olympic Village is based, with organisers no doubt hoping for some substantial snow flurries on its temperate lower slopes.
Once a playground for the Soviet Union’s political and cultural elite, Sochi still exudes a cosmopolitan seaside ambiance. Home to a sprawling coastline of Black Sea beaches fringed by the lush greenery of spacious parklands, it’s little wonder Sochi has garnered a reputation for being Russia’s unofficial summer capital.
There’s plenty to do in winter, however, and not all of it revolves around the Winter Olympics. The Riviera Park is eternally popular with locals and visitors alike, but for a quieter stroll through one of Sochi’s best-kept winter secrets, take a trip to the Dendrarium and enjoy the wintertime solitude of this expansive urban oasis, which comes complete with its own cable car and the sweeping views of the city it provides.
The 2014 Games will be the biggest Winter Olympics on record – in every sense of the word. Sprawling for more than 140 kilometres along the Black Sea coastline, Sochi is one of the largest cities in the world. It will also be the costliest Winter Olympics of all time, with Russian authorities pulling out all the stops to ensure this traditional summer retreat is transformed into a veritable winter wonderland.
There’s plenty of accommodation available in both downtown Sochi and Krasnaya Polyana, the latter of which provides the ultimate in Olympic Après-ski experiences. And with the Sochi Aeroexpress linking the airport to the city centre and several sparkling new state-of-the-art venues set to host the best in ice sports action, the Sochi Winter Olympics promises to be one of the best and biggest yet.