By Pavel Filatov
We arrived in Sochi a few days before the Games opened. The city welcomed us with sunshine, it was +13 Centigrade. A few years ago, the airport in Adler was a small and homely building. Today, it is a two-storeyed terminal of a modern airport. The airport is equipped with jetbridges, escalators, information points and nearly 70 registration counters. The staff of the airport is very friendly. Volunteers welcome arriving passengers to help them with anything they can - what to expect in the city, where to go and how to reach the desired venues.
Stepping out of the building of the airport, the eye immediately catches five giant Olympic rings. The construction was erected right at the exit to welcome all guests. The airport is adjacent to a railway station, where one can use modern and comfy Lastochka trains (Swallow). A ride on such a train to any destination of the Mountainous and Coastal cluster is free. The decision was made literally two days before the Olympics to avoid long lines for train tickets, for security reasons.
Security in Sochi is a special topic to talk about. Each railway station is outfitted with so-called filter points with numerous scanning machines and metal detectors to inspect all fans, regardless of their ticket category and citizenship. State-of-the-art equipment that is used to scan people's suitcases and bags will never miss anything. The machines can see even the composition of liquid substances and types of food. All police officers who work at inspection points are friendly and polite with all. At the second and third lines of control, police officers look at how arriving people behave.
In pictures: A look at Sochi
Having passed through all scanning machines and metal detectors, we go to take Lastochka train to travel to our Olympic destination. The trains are nearly noiseless, with comfortable seats and information screens showing the speed of the train, departure and arrival times and a running line with general information (time, date and weather). Russian Railways has done an overwhelming job to build new tracks to all destinations of the Mountainous and Coastal clusters, as well as new tracks to the city of Sochi.
Looking at the sea esplanade in Adler that used to be dotted with doubtful shops and cafes just a few years ago, it is hard to realize that it has been completely rebuilt. Now the new clean esplanade is lined with palm trees. The Adler railway station is built from scratch. It is an impressive, beautiful modern building designed in the form of a large coma. The interior of the new railway station strikes imagination, not to mention organizational details of the building. All directions will be clear for anyone. Noteworthy, police officers at inspection points are dressed in purple Olympic uniforms, whereas volunteers and employees wear very nice bright-colored sports outfits. The choice of clothing was made not to raise concerns with anyone, because police officers can be seen literally on every corner, wherever you go. When you see police wearing sports clothing, you realize that they are watching everything, but at the same time you do not pay any attention to them, which makes you feel absolutely safe.
From Adler railway station, Lastochka takes us to the Olympic Village station. The station is located close to the Olympic Park. On this station, the first thing you see is the huge International Broadcasting Center. This is a very large modern building with several main entrances, accreditation centers and numerous bus stops.
In general, the scale of the work done is more than simply impressive. Modern beautiful buildings, roads and transport junctions - everything looks modern, functional and very nice to look at. All roads are lined with Olympic flags, images of mascots and symbols. The entire territory of the Olympic Park is like a separate city and all of its guests are like accredited local residents.
The Olympic Village is a modern residential settlement for athletes with its houses, infrastructure and transport. The top of the Olympic torch can be seen from any spot of the Olympic Village, which is very symbolic.
A hotel complex for members of the International Olympic Committee, special guests is located next to the Olympic Village. For countless fans, who come to Sochi from around the world, three gigantic ocean liners were docked at the port. Each liner can accommodate 3,000 passengers.
The territory of the Olympic Park does not leave anyone indifferent either. Everyone can shake hands and take pictures with life-sized Olympic mascots - Zaika, Mishka and Leopard. The park is adjacent to Formula 1 tribunes. Symbols of the Olympic Games, Russia and sponsors are everywhere you look. The park is a home to press houses of fans of all countries participating in the Games. In the park, there are five bridges, the colors of which coincide with the colors of Olympic rings. On the left side of the bridges, one can see the castle of a new theme park with its attractions.
The park ends with a large-scale Olympic square with six amazing sports venues. The beautiful Olympic torch stands in the center of this square. The roofs of sports palaces glow and shine at night, displaying various colors and compositions.
Needless to say that there are a lot of people attending the Sochi Games indeed. However, you do not see crowds of people on the entire territory of the Olympic Park. There are no lines at shops and cafes, the environment is very friendly. Foreign visitors try to take pictures with Russians. Foreigners are happy to take pictures of themselves with Russian flags and Olympic mascots. The entire atmosphere gives one a wonderful feeling of the unity of nations, with no language or national barriers whatsoever. There are many fans from Canada and Asia (Japan, China).
At the opening ceremony of the Games, we saw many fans from the USA, Canada, Germany, China, Japan, the UK, CIS and even Georgia. The stadium was cheering loudly to every team of the Games, even to those teams that had one or two athletes. The opening was a blast of emotions, screams, tears, smiles and applause. The President of the International Olympic Committee said very kind words, expressing gratitude for the welcoming and friendly atmosphere at the Games. All spectators and international delegations (more than 60 countries) gave Thomas Bach a standing ovation for his speech.
The opening ceremony blew people's mind with its scale, grandeur, light and sound effects, as well as scenes from Russian history. More than 9,000 people were involved in the show. There was electricity in the air, and the ceremony of lighting the Olympic torch touched everyone deep in their hearts.
When the ceremony was over, all spectators were shown to exists, volunteers were of great help at this point. The opening night of the Games was magical. People were celebrating in the streets, international TV channels were interviewing fans. The Olympic Torch was burning near a complex of fountains with Russian classical music playing.
After two days in the Coastal Cluster, we went to the Mountainous Cluster, to Krasnaya Polyana and Roza Khutor. A quick ride on Lastochka, and here we are: a new modern railway station, inspection points and numerous volunteers. They kindly show directions to the cable railway, bobsleigh track, Gorki and Laura ski complexes. During the Games, one has to buy tickets for competitions to visit the complexes. After the Games, entry to ski bases will be free for those who visit the resort. Roza Khutor complex was built from scratch - there used to be only mountains and a river there. Now one can see a new long embankment on both sides of the river, several bridges and modern Dutch-styled hotels. Souvenir shops, grocery stores, sponsor shops, café and restaurants are plentiful.
The entire resort has been built from scratch. We visited the place in 2006, when there was neither a railway station, nor the residential complex. We had to flag down a car to go to Krasnaya Polyana. "There's nothing to see there, an old cable road and a shashlyk café," the driver then told us. He was right: there was nothing to see there in 2006, so we had some shashlyk and went to Sochi.
Today, there is a high-class residential complex, a modern ski resort, rental shops, cafes and restaurants, three new cable road stations and a railway station. The most important thing here is the spirit of the Olympic Games, clean mountainous air, the spirit of love, sport and no national barriers.
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