While we have had an absolute blast this past week I can't help but wonder what the impact of the games will be on Russia generally but also specifically for Sochi (and Adler). I'm no expert on international finance or politics so I'll not speak much in that vein but that doesn't stop me noticing and wondering.
At 50 billion dollars it's easy to see (and say) that Russia overpaid for these Olympics. A lot of the buildings here have a temporary feel to them. Mostly that's intentional and expected for all the country "houses" and food and merchandise shops. But there is a sense that some things that should be finished and polished are not (and not including the media hotel shenanigans you've heard about).
Maybe stuff like grass and trees with no sprinklers are only ment to last a month or two. Maybe the newly planted trees are we're only meant to be transitional.
Even if half of 50 billion actually went to the Olympics and not into Putin's cronies pockets, it's probably still a bit pricey for what they got. Soon an F1 Grand Prix track is being incorporated into the park.
That should keep some interest in the area. Other people we were talking to said Russia is trying to lure a European football club. They are going to keep the curling venue and at least one of the hockey venues (I'd say the bigger Bolshoy Dome).
Still, there must be doubts. I recently saw photos of derelict and abandoned Olympic buildings in Athens. Of course Greece had serious issues which sent the country into a tailspin but how much will the people of Russia and Sochi care about this area in a year or two. What happens in a month when all the security is gone? We talked a bit to our hotel proprietor who talked about the hope of bringing sports and people to the Olympic park in the coming year. But will the people come back?
I wonder too if as many people attended the games as was hoped. I wonder what Russia is saying and what the US media is saying. It did seem less full than I thought it would be mostly but the Olympic park is huge and it's hard to make that space feel full.
I've talked to other people who've been to other Olympics and they say that all Olympics are just like these; slightly rushed, unfinished and pricey. So in that regard I don't think Russia failed with these Olympics at all. Yes, they need to work getting capitalism right (that's not a dig, its just seeing how they sell stuff here compared to back home really shows you how far behind they are in that respect). Yes, there were some cultural quirks that seem odd because they are not my quirks (if you have a kid with you in any line you can cut to the front if the line). But Russia did not fail at these Olympics.
In fact I think they mostly got it right. As I said before, the Park is huge but it's probably the best that's been designed for accessibility and proximity. It was great to be able to walk to every venue inside the costal cluster in less than 20 minutes. That's a bug win and had never been done before.
Public transit was also a big win. We didn't have any problems with the (totally) free shuttles and busses to and from the transportation hub. Again, totally free. And timely.
Don't listen to people saying there was not security everywhere. Just back slowly away from those people and go about your day. They were not playing attention. There was security everywhere. I'm sure there was a lot more that I didn't see.
Lastly, I feel a bit irked at the US news media machine (more than normally). It seems to me there was a serious hatchet job done to paint these Olympics in a bad light and discourage travel. Shame on you media folk. Sure there were concerns going in (security, readiness, etc) but the view before I left was completely one sided in a negative way. We can and should be better than that. Maybe save the politicing and commentating for reality TV and do some real balanced journalism?
Being here on the ground myself proved to be much more truthful and informative than anything I saw on the news. The Olympics are about bringing out the best in us as we compete together. That should apply all the time, even to us non-Olympians too.