Many of my friends have been asking me if there is any chance that Russia will be unable to complete the venues in time to host the 2014 Winter Olympics thereby requiring that the Games revert to a former host which would provide us another amazing Vancouver experience. This scenario has happened only once in the history of the Games when Innsbruck, Austria was asked to host the 1976 Games.
With mixed feelings I am now in a position to say that there is no chance of that happening for Vancouver! While I would love to relive the Vancouver Olympics, I now know that the next Games in Sochi, Russia in 2014 will be remarkable and unique.
I have just returned from an amazing trip to Sochi as the Canadian Curling Association representative to the Canadian Olympic Committee who hosted a familiarization trip. When I found out I was heading to Sochi, I quickly googled it to find out exactly where it was and was stunned to find that Sochi is on the coast of the Black Sea in a sub-tropical region just across the sea from Istanbul (where I had spent a week in May!). Sure enough I found a city filled with palm trees and home to the most popular resorts and health spas in Russia.
Sochi and Russia are ready and poised to host an amazing 2014 Olympics – one that will be unlike any before it. For the first time the “city” sports will be situated in a central “hub” called the “Coastal Cluster” and within walking distance of each other. Curling, speed skating, hockey, figure skating and Opening and Closing Ceremonies will be hosted in a circle of brand new arenas. The cluster will be positioned around a central “Olympic Park”.
The Olympic Curling Centre will have a capacity of approximately 3,000 and is slated to be completed in 2012. Sticking with tradition, the test events will include the 2013 World Juniors and the 2013 Paralympic Curling event.
My hope for the trip was to get a feel for what the country and the city were like and what a Games in Russia might be like and to begin to form relationships with key people that may be able to assist us in our preparation and at the Games. That was definitely accomplished!
Coincidentally the Curling Sport Manager is a former Russian National & Olympic Team Member, Olga Zharkova, whom I have known for a number of years.
A couple of interesting things about the Sochi Olympics:
- the entrance to the Athletes Village is 100 meters from the curling venue, the closest of all sports
- the “Coastal Cluster” including the curling venue is on the shores of the Black Sea
- the city of Sochi claims to be the longest city in Europe at 145 km
- Volkswagen and Audi will be the official cars of the Sochi Games
- The Sochi philosophy is focused on the ability for spectators to attend more than a single sport discipline within a day
- The “Coastal Cluster” is 22 km south of the city of Sochi and 7 km south of the Sochi Airport
The Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee is situated in Moscow, so following a couple of days of touring Sochi and the venue sites we moved on to there where we were briefed by various committee heads. It was really encouraging and refreshing to have many questions answered. We found the people involved with Sochi 2014 to be completely open and helpful.
A few days before I left for Russia I happened to run into my friend Olga Andrianova, the longtime coach of the Russian Women’s Curling Team in Cloverdale. When I told her where I was going she said she would tell her husband to show me around Moscow. Yuri, Sport Manager Olga and I had the most wonderful tour of Moscow by night, an evening I will long remember. Yuir and Olga also arranged for me to have dinner with the key members of the Russian Curling Federation who were gracious and amazing hosts. The Vice-President of the Federation is the Sport Minister of Moscow so his sport connections are sure to be a good thing for the future of curling in Russia.
I am sure we will be talking a lot about Sochi and Russia in the coming months and years. For now I feel very comfortable with traveling to Russia and that the team in charge there is going to become great friends of curling and will do a wonderful job!