Photos and Blog by Adelaide Ponte Usdin and Wendy Ponte
Our landing in Sochi has been rough, to say the least. Fortunately not our actual landing. In fact, that was quite spectacular because the plane heads out over the Black Sea past Adler airport and then circles back to land at the airport, which is right next to the Olympic Park. It’s a magnificent view–the sea, far from black, is turquoise from above and the venue buildings are brightly colored. In the background are huge snow-covered mountain.
Upon leaving the airport building, we were greeted by a group of red-clad singers handing out Cola Cola and then we were promptly interviewed by a Moscow TV station. How to feel instantly famous!
Unfortunately the rest of the day was not near so nice. the trouble began almost right away when we tried to get to our hotel via the train. the new train system is free, but there the convenience ends. Each time you enter the system, you must go through a security check that rivals that of any airport, and that includes being frisked–every single time!
With our luggage, confusion about where we were going and lack of spectator passes (thats another story, but we’ll get to that), we were targets for suspicion, so we were extra-frisked that first time. Wendy had one security person run a finger inside the waist of her jeans. Then they told us that there was a “forbidden item” in our suitcases. It turned out to be Adelaide’s skates…
We took a pricey cab to our hotel at that point. The thing about Sochi is that very little of the Olympic events actually happen in Sochi, but rather in Adler. Sochi is about 25 miles away and the hotels are spread between the two and far beyond. Ours is almost as far as Sochi. Also, we soon discovered, it is not that close to the train station and there is no set way to get between the two.
Another complicating factor in these games is the requirement to have a Spectator’s Pass and an event ticket in order to enter the Olympic Park, the first time this has been done. In Vancouver, as in most past games, the sites were spread throughout the city and entrance was free. Here there is a separate, gated off park to enter and if you do not have tickets to an event for that particular day, you can’t enter at all, unless you buy a day pass for that day.
We had applied for our Spectator’s Pass through Co-Sports (the official vendor of tickets in the U.S.), for which we had to fill out a detailed application, but did not know we would have to get them validated once we arrived. This process involved standing in a very, very long line.
So long that by the time we reached the Park, the ticket office was closing and we could not get tickets to the first Team event.
So we returned to our hotel, or rather tried to. Upon arriving at our station we soon discovered there was no way to get there. An hour later, freezing cold and literally weeping, we somehow managed to convince our hotel to come and get us. The police and security people tried to call us a cab, but there is only one company that is allowed to legally pick people up during the games and none of them were available.
Back at our hotel, finally, we and other guests complained so loudly that Co-Sport agreed to hire a bus and driver to drive us to the train station going forward.
Thankfully the restaurant was still open and we had a good meal, while watching-re-runs of the Team event. We notice that Russian television shows every bit of the competitions so far, which we like!
We also noticed all of the empty seats at the event and wish we could have been there to cheer them on! It was exciting to see the team spirit at play for the first time for skaters. You could see the effect it had on the athletes, even over the TV screen. It was great to see Meryl Davis patting Jeremy Abbott on the shoulder in support and consolation.
We were impressed with the athletic power of Plushenko’s jumps and the choreography of Hanyu’s skate, and the always detailed beauty from Chan.
We also heard that multitudes of other people besides us had huge difficulties with accommodations and transportation. CNN reported that of the 5 rooms they’ve had reserved for months they have, so far, only gotten one! Friends of ours were sent back and forth between cruise ships (which are being used to make up for the lack of rooms), and we’re told that they had cancelled one of their two rooms.
We need a good night’s sleep for mood improvement and are hopeful for a better day tomorrow!