Newspaper article International New York Times

Sochi: Awash in an Olympics Afterglow

Newspaper article International New York Times

Sochi: Awash in an Olympics Afterglow

Article excerpt

The hope is that after the throngs of Olympians have left Sochi, foreign travelers will still be drawn to the mountain region.

On a recent evening in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, Pat O'Meara sat with his wife and two daughters and watched the American Kaitlyn Farrington snag a gold medal in the women's halfpipe snowboard event.

The O'Mearas, bundled up in the bleachers, cheering loudly, were more than 5,000 miles away from their home in Wilton, Conn., and a rare sight at the Sochi Winter Games -- foreign tourists.

The hope is that after the throngs of Olympians have left Sochi, travelers like the O'Mearas, and especially their Russian counterparts, will still be drawn to the mountain region and view the once obscure, historic Soviet getaway on the Black Sea as a new destination -- the Park City of Russia.

"It's been great," Mr. O'Meara said. "We thought it was a good reason to come here and good for the girls to get some world experience."

Mr. O'Meara, who has attended seven other Olympics, added, "But we knew what we were getting into."

The Sochi Games were the most expensive Olympics ever staged, requiring a staggering $50 billion or greater price tag to construct a sports Disneyland.

Much effort has gone into infrastructure and making the area more accessible than before. Aeroflot has regular flights into Sochi's airport, freshly paved roads connect key points and trains are gleaming, fast and efficient.

Some officials and travel agents worry about the arenas in the Olympic Park in Sochi, which organizers say will offer soccer and Formula One, in addition to shopping, hotels, an amusement park and convention space. But the region's best bet for tourism happiness may lie in the mountain cluster, Krasnaya Polyana, where Olympic skiing and snowboarding events were staged. With snow conditions that included athletes going down slopes in T-shirts and some blinding fog during the Games, it's unclear how ski and snowboard bums will view what the resort has to offer in comparison with more established counterparts elsewhere in Europe. …

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