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Dan Egan's Olympic Travel log

Dear Sochi, thank you!

Posted by Dan Egan February 24, 2014 09:00 AM
Dear Sochi,

I writing to thank you for being such a great host during the 2014 Winter Olympics. To be honest, my friends and family were worried about my visit, and I also have to admit that I bought terrorism and medical evacuation insurance just to be on the safe side. My mom said she was glad I did.

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All I can tell you is that from the moment I touched ground in Sochi, things went much smoother than I expected. And much to my surprise, the simple things that can be a huge hassle when traveling were really well thought-out. There was no real language barrier to speak of, all my baggage arrived, and the hotel bus shuttle was smooth.

Overall, I was in your town for 25 days and I should add they were long days. Getting from the Coastal Cluster of media hotels to the mountain events did take me just over two hours one way, and with some of the evening events and press conferences not ending until after midnight, it made for a long commute at the end of each day back to my hotel.

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Congratulations on your internet! I had connections in the media centers, at the bottom of ski runs, and in my hotel. It was never an issue. As a video journalist, a solid, uninterrupted connection is a must, and you delivered on that.

I’m going to tell all of my friends to come and visit, and here is why. I think overall, the Sochi 2014 Olympics were one of the most impressive engineering and construction project in modern times. Being from Boston and having lived through the “Big Dig” – which was in essence one big long tunnel and took close to 12 years to complete – it was obvious you certainly did more than that in less time.

From the airport out, everything was brand new, from the roads, trains, hotels, and sidewalks to the Olympic venues, stadiums, ski resorts, cross country center, ski jumps and bobsled tracks. Some estimates have the total number of workers over 70,000. And the world came and camped out in your town. It was obvious that not all of this massive construction site was cleaned up or completed, but hey, amazing effort mate, well done!

300egan2.jpgI'm eager to hear how you feel about how the world treated you as our host during the Winter Olympics? The world showed up on your doorstep and you fed us, showed us around, and generously let the world invade and criticize the house that Putin built. For sure there are issues in your country and you certainly do things differently, plus we dug around a bit looking for the cracks in your sidewalks, so to speak, but I guess that was to be expected – with greatness come critics.

It was a blast meeting so many people. The Olympians, the volunteers, the families, and the Russian fans were so pumped up to be there. During the entire trip, I only heard the press complaining – I couldn't find one spectator, worker, athlete, or coach who had issues. Most only had praise and good things to say about you and your town’s people.

Oh, those "cracks" we found with your way of life? I didn't find one Russian who complained about the things the media reported. Funny?

Sochi, you are located in a beautiful part of the world. The Black Sea provided an amazing backdrop for the mountain events and the mountains loomed large stacked up behind the Olympic Park. I wish you success in the future, the same success and opportunities you provided to all athletes, the families, fans, media, and support personnel. I hope to be back one day as well to see how the place looks when you do finally get to complete the project.

Best of luck to you, Sochi, and once again a big Boston thank you!

Sochi theme park designed to entice visitors to return

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff February 22, 2014 07:19 PM

When the Olympics are over, Russian officials hope visitors will return to Sochi. One component of that plan is a Disney-style theme park that was partially open during the games.

Watch as Dan Egan and David Filipov take you on a tour of it in the video above.

After Olympics, Russians hope culture of volunteerism remains

Posted by Dan Egan February 20, 2014 05:15 PM
SOCHI, Russia – The volunteers at the Olympics are everywhere. They dot the streets, buses, venues and the Olympic Park.

They wear smiles on their faces and bright multi-colored uniforms that will be memories for me for a long time from the 2014 Winter Olympics.

In many ways, the Olympics are about exporting national pride and hope for what the future holds for the host country. In Sochi, the backbone for that message is the young volunteers.

Luke McCarthy of Durham, N.H., is a private English teacher in St. Petersburg. He thinks the games are a major monumental shift in the Russian youth culture that is volunteering here in Sochi.

McCarthy studied international relations and Russian studies at Purdue University, and has traveled around the world, including a 40-day hitch-hiking trip from Turkey and eastern Europe. After the Olympics, he is heading to India for a year to help the poor.

“These games have been a cultural revolution, and you can see it in the restaurants, the information centers, and the ticket lines. The Russian volunteers are smiling and saying hello in English – verses the older construction workers guys and the security guards are grunting and grimacing,” McCarthy said.

At any of the Olympic venues, one thing you always notice are the volunteers. They are the front-line staff and the face of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. My experience is they are really trying hard, and in many cases are more friendly and sincere than the youth of America in similar roles at McDonalds and rock concerts.

The average age of a volunteer at Sochi 2014 is 23, and around 82 percent of the 25,000 volunteers at Sochi are between 18 and 30. In reality, this Olympics is more like a youth convention and a pep rally for the young adults of Russia.

The volunteering program here in Sochi has provided one of the youngest volunteer workforces at an Olympic Games. It also introduced the barely known concept to Russia of volunteerism, organizers said. Only 7 percent of the volunteer workforce is international, and they come from 66 countries, including Canada, the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.

The Russian word for hospitality is “gostepriimstvo,” which means “welcome guest.”

“The everyday Russian is a great host in their home only," McCarthy said. “Out on the street, they are a lot less polite. But somehow the Olympics have changed that and here in Sochi, these volunteers are treating people like Russia is their home.”

The hope and expectation for Russian organizers for these volunteers is that this experience will remain with the volunteers and be carried back to small villages, towns, and cities all through out this Russia.

"Only 3 percent of people were engaged in volunteer work in Russia when we started this project six years ago," Sochi 2014 head of volunteers Marina Pochinok said at a press conference. “Sochi's 2014 volunteer program has educated Russians about what volunteers are capable of and what skills they offer and to educate our people and to create a culture of volunteering.”

The Olympics is most significant event that has taken place in Russia since the fall of communism. Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is from St. Petersburg, has made national pride a major policy of his leadership. This generation knows four things about Russia: 1.) life was hard for their parents; 2.) life is good now; 3.) the future looks bright; and 4.) Putin provides economic opportunity.

"These volunteers have changed the way the world sees Russia,” McCarthy said, "and maybe more importantly changed the way Russian young adults sees themselves in the world.”

From the Tzars to Stalin and now Putin, Russian rulers have summered in Sochi.

“Sochi is the Russian Miami. Putin realizes that an old-style Soviet summer won’t work. So all of this new infrastructure looks and feels like Europe, so the investment has been worth it,” said Jim Brooke, the Russian Bureau Chief for Voice of America.

Regardless of the environmental and economic themes of corruption that will forever accompany these games, the feeling here is of “Russian Pride” that will go forward with the volunteers of this country.

“Yes there are many problems and limitations here in Russia," McCarthy said. "But there is a Russian saying that can be applied to almost any situation in this country that goes like this: 'We live in a closet here in Russia, but its a big roomy comfortable closet. so don’t push to hard against the door to get out'."

So with all of these young adults chanting “Russia, Russia" at all of the Olympic events, Putin may have achieved his Olympic dreams of an unified, proud Russian landscape, happy here in the closet.

Correction: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect translation of the Russian word "gostepriimstvo."

It's more like the spring Olympics in Sochi

Posted by Dan Egan February 15, 2014 10:14 AM
Sochi, Russia is known as a summer resort. Many wondered what the weather would be like in this part of Russia for the Winter Olympics, and last year at the test events it was warm, but not as warm as it has been this week.

Here at the 2014 Olympics, it's more like spring weather with temperatures up as high as 60 degrees, and it is affecting the snow quite a bit. The men's mogul course was a sea of slush, and the landings on the jumps had big holes punched into the soft snow.

In the men's super combined event, Olympic organizers started the downhill portion of the competition an hour earlier hoping the snow would stay firm for the event. It didn't. The halfpipe had ruts and bumps in it, and snowboarder Danny Davis called it the worst pipe he has seen in nearly a decade.

In the video above, Doug Charko, who is the meteorologist for Team Canada, gave us some insight on the conditions and what we can expect heading into next week.

Coach Bill Enos leads US snowboarders to new heights at Olympics

Posted by Dan Egan February 13, 2014 07:33 AM

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Bill Enos of New Hampshire coached a pair of snowboarders to Olympic gold in Sochi, including Sage Kotsenburg. (Getty Images)


Bill Enos believes our accomplishments are the sum total of all the people we have met, places we have gone, things we have seen, and the experiences we share.

For Enos, there is no greater example of this than being the coach of the US snowboard slopestyle team at the Olympics, which won two gold medals in the sport's debut at the 2014 Winter Games.

Enos fits seamlessly into the snowboarding world. His persona fits perfectly into the free spirited snowboard culture because he and it are one and the same. He can flip between conversations about the latest video game to the philosophy of peak performance as easily as shifting from toe side edge to heel side edge on a snowboard. His passion for the sport connects with teenagers as easily as it does with the “higher-ups” at the US Snowboard Association.

“US Snowboarding lets me be creative, the way I let my riders be creative, and we all work well together," said Enos, who is from Campton, N.H., and attended the Waterville Valley Academy.

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I live in the same town as Bill, and have known him since he was a professional snowboarder in the early 90s. Seeing him at the bank or the post office brightens my day and always helps me to see the world as a silly, random, and wonderful place.

“He is the pied piper of snowboarding," said Tom Barbeau, the Alpine program director of the Waterville Valley Ski Academy in New Hampshire. “In the early days of snowboard racing, he and a few others would run gates with our skiers. Bill would get up going fast, crash, and do it all over again and again. He was tenacious. Then when he became a coach, I saw how he masked that intensity behind his personality to motivate his athletes.

"To be a great coach, you have to never forget what it is like to be a kid. Billy has never lost that ability and through that he connects, educates and motivates his riders.”

Sage Kotsenburg is known for his style and progression, and has been a part of the snowboarding scene, but never really on top of the field. He unveiled his signature trick, the “Holy Crail,” to win gold at the Olympics, his first victory since he was a young teenager. His parents started to wonder if he would ever be recognized for his participation in the sport.

“I told his parents there is only one event where Sage needs to be recognized this year, and that is in Russia at the Olympics. His time has come, and it was the perfect time. That is how life is,” Enos said.

Enos had no qualms about Kotsenburg attempting a trick for the first time in a competition in the finals of the Olympics.

“It was the perfect time for him to do it. I wasn’t worried, I knew the winner would come out of the semifinals, not the top riders that made the finals into the first round. I told my entire team that the extra rounds were a good thing and to remain positive. And Sage was just getting better and better all day. His runs were fluid and he was so relaxed, it didn’t surprise me he would try something new.”

The day prior to the Olympic debut of the slopestyle event, Enos and Kostenburg hung out together all day.

“We were chilling and we both decided to take a 15 minute nap. Sage set his alarm, I didn’t. He woke me up exactly 15 minutes later and we just sort of walked around some more. We went shopping and bought some chocolate, hit the game room, but the basketball game was broken so we were bummed out and played the motorcycles race game for a while, had some dinner and then we only had two movies, Fight Club and Little Miss Sunshine. We choose Fight Club and went to bed," he said.

Jamie Anderson, who won gold in the Olympic women’s slopestyle, said she couldn’t sleep the night before her big event.

“I did some yoga and meditated," Anderson said. “I knew I would never get any sleep if I didn’t. It worked and I woke up feeling great.”

Anderson is famous for her smile and relaxed positive outlook on life. She has has four X Games Gold Medals, and also won on the Dew tour, so she is no newcomer to pressure.

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“She is a totally different athlete than Sage,” Enos said. "I give her space on top of the course. She is a master at stretching, breathing, and just goes to a different place right before she pushes off.”

Slopestyle kicked off the day after the opening ceremony. The competitors watched the big party from up in the mountains. There were some rumbles about the course not being safe and some riders were injured in training. Snowboarding icon Shaun White pulled out of the competition to focus on his main event, the halfpipe.

“We just stayed positive through all of that drama. It had no effect on us. The jumps needed some tweaking. At all major events the riders have to adjust to the jumps and rails,” Enos said.

The landings were a bit steeper than normal and the jumps were huge at the Olympics. That required the riders to adjust their takeoffs and landings a bit. Anderson was struggling with her take offs and spins.

“I just told her what I saw and made a few suggestions. She did the rest,” Enos said.

“It almost doesn’t seem real that both athletes won. At the end of the day you go, hey, not a bad weekend! Blessed I guess. I’m looking forward to developing new riders, I mean how do you top the Olympics?”

He may not be quite sure on what to do next, but one thing is for sure: whatever Bill Enos does, it will be fun, calm, silly, and profound.

I for one can’t wait to where he soars next.

An amazing opening weekend at the Winter Olympics

Posted by Dan Egan February 10, 2014 04:40 AM
The Olympic Park in has been rocking since the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Games here in Sochi, Russia. When the Russian team walked into the Fisht Stadium, the place was electric, and that energy has been pumping from the Black Sea to the mountains for the last three days.

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Sage Kotsenburg and Jamie Anderson were the face of America as the men’s and women’s snowboard slopestyle event was the climax to the weekend with Team USA sweeping gold. Their attitudes toward life and their passion for the sport of snowboarding was a refreshing reprieve from all of the negative news stories coming out of the US and worldwide press corps regarding security, gay rights, and construction.

The US women’s mogul team put two athletes into the finals. Eliza Outtrim, who is originally from Connecticut, and Hannah Kearney, who hails from Vermont and Waterville Valley in New Hampshire. It was bronze for Kearney, who failed to repeat her gold medal performance from Vancouver and who was bumped out of the top two spots by two sisters from Canada. The Dufour-LaPointe family had three daughters competing in the mogul event, and the youngest sister, Justine, won gold.

At the Olympics it's all about records and firsts. Jenny Jones became the first person ever to win a snowsports Olympic medal for Great Britain. Many have tried, and her bronze medal in the snowboard slopestyle will make her the cover girl of England for a very long time.

To say that covering the Olympics is a fast pace would be an understatement. My commute to the mountains is two-plus hours on three buses and multiple security checks. The Alpine races start early and the freestyle ski and snowboard events run at night. The women’s mogul event cleared out of the stadium by 2 a.m., I arrived at my hotel at 4:30 a.m., and had to depart for the men’s downhill at 8 a.m. the next day. I spent more hours on the bus than I did sleeping that night.

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The weather has been spectacular – it's been sunny with no rain and almost spring-like. Today features Julia Mancuso in the women’s Alpine super combined event and the men’s moguls skiing us tonight. It's groundhog day here at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and I am loving every moment of it.

Yes, Heidi, you are still an Olympian

Posted by Dan Egan February 7, 2014 03:33 AM
US mogul skier Heidi Kloser who is currently ranked fourth in the world, fell Thursday in training and completely trashed her knee. She tore her ACL and MCL and has an impact fracture to her femur plus an impact bruise to her tibia plateau. Bad news on the eve of the Opening Ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

As she was being placed in the ambulance at the Rosa Khutor Ski Area, she asked her father, Mike Kloser a world-class mogul skier and member of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, “am I still an Olympian?”

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That is the question that echoes off all the news stories surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics such as security and gay rights, here in Russia. The athletes are here and tonight is their night at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Games. They have committed their lives to sport, channeled all of their passion and motivation toward participating in the Olympics.

For Bode Miller, Shaun White, and other big names, they will attempt to win medals, but for the vast majority of the competitors in in Sochi, they are joining an elite group of athletes that get to call themselves Olympians and medals are a long shot.

So for Kloser and all the other world-class athletes who won't get to stand on podiums, get big sponsors, and won't be interviewed by Bob Costas, take a moment during the Opening Ceremonies tonight and think about them, their families and friends who already understand that their victory has already been won.

Yes Heidi Kloser you are, and will always be, an Olympian.

With Shaun White, it's me first

Posted by Dan Egan February 6, 2014 12:51 AM
Snowboarder Shaun White likes to win, and not just in the halfpipe.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist is one of the highest-paid athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics. He has clout. His sponsors are many and they are big. He has leverage. White is an international brand involved with many enterprises, from chewing gum to video games. He has star power.

So there was much debate over White's withdrawal from the first Olympics slopestyle event on Wednesday, a decision that was criticized by some of his peers and had many wondering about his motives.

But it's not surprising. A look at some of the moments throughout White's career show how driven he is to be successful while also illustrating he's not necessarily best buds with the rest of the snowboarding set. They also help explain why he would make the call he did on Wednesday.

White is not your run-of-the-mill Olympian who is hoping for a gold medal. He grants interviews to the likes of Larry King and Maxim. He has an agent, a stylist, and a manager, so when it came to his announcement that he was pulling out of the first Olympic slopestyle event, he revealed the news in the friendly environment on the NBC Today’s show with Matt Lauer.

He cited concern over the course.

White achieved worldwide mega-star status through skill in and out of the halfpipe. White is not the first athlete to use the Olympics to launch a successful brand and career, but he might be the best at it. He has transcended the snowboarding world and lives the life of a star.

He has only had minor scrapes in public, a drunk and disorderly and vandalism incident where he trashed a hotel room in Nashville, Tenn. But hey, he is a snowboarder with a lawyer, so the penalty was minor and he apologized. If he wins in Sochi in the halfpipe, he has a shot of becoming one the most successful Olympians of his generation, both athletically and financially.

White is a driven competitor. In the buildup to the 2010 Winter Games, he had his own private halfpipe built in a very out-of-the-way location in Silverton, Colo., and he and only he was allowed to train there.

The recent HBO Documentary "The Crash Reel" is the story of snowboarder Kevin Pierce, who suffered a traumatic brain injury while training for the 20010 Olympics and was White’s number one competitor going into those Olympic Games. Pierce tells a tale about rooming with White, and after Pierce beat White in a competition, White had all of Pierce's belonging set outside on the sidewalk.

The film also highlights the differences between White and the rest of his competitors. They see themselves as snowboarders, he see himself as a lone wolf and a brand.

That difference was evident Wednesday at the Olympic Media Center during a press conference held by the US ski and snowboard team with the US halfpipe squad. Olympian Danny Davis who tends to focus more on the soul of snowboarding and was a training partner with Pierce for the Vancouver Olympics, bragged about how he hasn’t trained yet here in Sochi because, “he has been having some sweet powder runs.”

In comparison, White said, “as you get older, you take things more seriously, so yes, I am taking this more seriously now than when I younger.”

White takes it so seriously in fact that his stage is NBC, not the US snowboard team. Specific questions about the safety of the slopestyle course were stifled by the press manager of the snowboard team during the conference. Nick Alexakos sternly requested that the press corps “please keep the questions focused on halfpipe.”

During the exchange, White revealed his true focus.

"I’ve trained the same for both competitions, definitely the halfpipe carries more weight because its a defending situation. I feel there is more pressure," he said.

In a later question concerning the time conflict between competing in both events, White was asked how was he going to manage training for the halfpipe when the first day of training was the day the slopestyle ended. White said he might have to skip the training and try and make it up.

Hours later he announced via NBC he was pulling out of the slopestyle.

White isn’t the first Olympian to calculate his performance and manage the number of events to participate in at the Olympics. It happens in both the Summer and Olympic Games. He is also not the first Olympic athlete to bring a bit of drama before the media.

On Wednesday, he was asked at the press conference about his career and he started the answer with “My whole life has been setbacks and overcoming them. I missed out on the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake when I was 15, and that made me stronger as an athlete and I came back and won the gold in 2006.”

At 27 he knows time is limited and his best shot at history to win three Olympic gold medals in one event is now. Halfpipe is his bread and butter, this is where he launched his fame from the stage of the X Games and this is where he will potentially make his final stand for his Olympic career. His strategy has worked thus far, why stop now..

When asked about his new hairstyle Wednesday, and what happened to the long red hair that earned him the nickname "The Flying Tomato," White said, “I basically did it because people said I couldn’t.”

White pulling out of the slopestyle is just one more example of that attitude that has placed him on top of the Olympics stage.

Chasing the story with David Filipov

Posted by Dan Egan February 5, 2014 04:54 AM
I’ve traveled all over the world to many far-off lands, but my country roll call pales in comparison to David Filipov, a senior staff writer at the Boston Globe who was Moscow bureau chief from 1996 to 2004.

Filipov covered Russia's transformation from Communism, and reported from conflict zones in Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq. He went on to work as assistant Metro editor, and currently writes feature stories about a variety of topics throughout New England. He recently spent two month in Dagestan, Russia on the Boston Marathon bombing investigation for the newspaper.

My world is sun, snow athletes, and sport. His world is a mix of shadows, people, and interpretation of half-truths. So when I heard I was going to spend the day with him tracking down stray dogs in Sochi and the people who help them, I knew it would be an adventure. Filipov has what you need to get around in countries like Russia – he’s got “people,” and people who know “people”.

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Our day ranged from waiting in a gas line at a Sochi petrol station to driving up and down dirt roads to roads, neighborhood roadside meetings with Dog Activist, and negotiating swampland to a makeshift kennel. All in all, my kind of day.

“I think Egan found his road to Damascus,” Filopov mentioned to his editor, “He likes hanging around with me.”

I did, for the adventure, and it was fascinating to see how a he worked and how he maneuvered around the city and its people using his fluent Russian and connecting the dots between the facts. Plus, the side stories of his life as a journalist were mind-blowing.

Stray dogs may not compare to his world of war and terrorism, but his skills kept me from getting bitten by the dogs and not stepping in their messes at the kennel. In between tracking down dog kennels and dog catchers, he was giving interviews to NPR and television stations back home via cell phone and skype.

We are heading out on another story tonight and I can’t wait!

Sochi might not be the 'Golden Ticket' for local residents

Posted by Dan Egan February 2, 2014 05:45 PM
"There's plenty of money out there. They print more every day. But this ticket, there's only five of them in the whole world, and that's all there's ever going to be. Only a dummy would give this up for something as common as money. Are you a dummy?”Grandpa George, on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

I’m no dummy, so when the opportunity to help cover the Olympics for Boston.com and the Boston Globe using one of their five Olympic Credentials, I said yes! No security threats or travel issues were going keep me from the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Today I felt as lucky as Charlie Bucket!

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It is very nice to be here ahead of the rush. People are friendly and not too overloaded yet. The main media center is huge and empty, but that will change. I headed out to discover the Olympic Venues in the Olympic Park. Very cool, but like all major events, there is always a bit of controversy, and there is no shortage of that here in Sochi, especially when it come to the environment.

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The Olympic Park is located in what was once a swamp. The chief architect of Sochi's 2014 venues sought inspiration from previous Olympic Games host cities to transform a "swamp" into an expanse of beauty. Oleg Kharchenko, chief architect of venue construction company Olympstroy, visited Seoul (1988) and Barcelona (1992) on planning missions.

"I visited several cities to see what the Olympic Games could give to a city," Kharchenko said at a press conference about sustainability on Sunday.

The total budget for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games is $51 billion

"I think we have given this city (Sochi) a chance to survive by spending so much money and putting so much effort into this city,” Kharchenko said.

It's easy to think that $51 billion should give a place a chance to survive. I know it would help me out a bit.

Kharchenko defended the cost of the stadiums.

"As for the extravagance, for any architect involved in this project, it is a great honor and they aim to create great venues for the Olympics," he said.

Mr. Wonka once said to Charlie, “Don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted?

“What happened?” replied Charlie.

“He lived happily ever after,” Mr. Wonka said.

So the question is will the residents of Sochi live happily ever after? Many are wondering. A key element of the transport infrastructure is the new road linking Sochi's coastal cluster to the mountain cluster in Krasnaya Polyana.

Danila Ovcharov, Sochi 2014 head of sustainability and the environment, said authorities had taken steps to limit the damage to the region's ecosystems caused by the road's construction.

"Naturally any construction site incurs certain damage to the environment, but all the impact to the environment is compensated for and this process is being carefully managed and monitored," Ovcharov said.

Kharchenko felt any damage to the environment was outweighed by the benefits for the region.

"There isn't a place in Russia with so many buildings constructed that are scrupulously following green building standards," he said.

Kharchenko said that when he first visited the site of the Olympic Park before construction began in 2009, it looked like a swamp.

"There were a large number of obsolete buildings, it was not a proper eco-friendly environment. It wasn’t a place you would like to be born or to live. We have created a totally new city.”

All of this is true. I was here in the winter of 2010, and wow, I couldn’t believe the construction that was going on then. Every 7 to 12 miles along the road to the mountains was a “man camp” that slept 700-900 workers. They were moving a river, mountain and anything in the way of the new high speed train and highway to the Krasnaya Pollyana area,. This place was transformed.

This is the most expensive Olympics ever, but every new international event tops the spending list. Just look at the America’s Cup, the Soccer World Cup and same sort of things are said.

A recent ABC and AP News story stated this about the Olympic construction:

“People elsewhere in Sochi and surrounding villages have seen the quality of their life decline because of Olympic construction. In the village of Akhshtyr, residents complain about an illegal landfill operated by an Olympics contractor that has fouled the air and a stream that feeds the Sochi water supply. Waste from another illegal dump in the village of Loo has slid into a brook that flows into the already polluted Black Sea.”

Its hard not to imagine that one of the largest construction sites on the planet is a place where there is very little environmental concern that some damage wasn’t done. Experts from the United Nations Environment Program have and will continue to visit Sochi twice a year until 2030 to monitor the damage to the region. So we will learn more as time goes on.

I have asked everyone I have met, from the bus drivers to the hotel staff, the staff here at the media center, and beyond, and I have yet to meet a local Sochi resident. But I am going to keep searching, because as the world comes to Sochi over the next three weeks, and those of us who won the “Golden Ticket,” we'll have to keep in mind the local residents who were here before we came and will be here long after the closing ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Notes from the road to Sochi

Posted by Dan Egan February 1, 2014 04:01 PM

I have to admit I was very concerned about traveling this week to the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The security rumors and news reports really had me second-guessing this journey, plus I have come to Russia several times, and from past experiences I know it can be a challenging trip.

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The first hiccup came at JFK. I had plenty of time for a connection and I was pretty relaxed until I checked in with Aeroflot and the man checking me informed me that my Delta receipt for the extra luggage fee was not acceptable and he sent me to get a "green" receipt from Delta.

"Here we go" I thought. After tracking all around JKF Terminal 1, I finally found a Delta person in the baggage claim whom after much reluctance picked up the phone and made several calls trying to help me out. In the end, the "green" receipt is printed on the "old" plane type of paper ticket we used to have back in the day. How these airline employees maneuver around their computer system is amazing.

So armed with my "green" receipt I went back to my new buddy at Aeroflot and he chuckled as he saw me coming with the proper paper work. We showed it off around the counter as other passengers protested in having to produce such a document.

Landing in Moscow DME Airport is always interesting and this was no different. At passport control, the agent lowered the metal door and locked me in to his space. The door was a mini-garage door that rolled down from the top and locked with a clang. Then the "kid" struggled with the computer system trying to process my paper work. I was relieved when he reached for the "stamp" and punched my passport.

The Sochi Adler airport is nice and new and finished. I was here winter of 2010 and we couldn't go inside the terminal at that time. I checked in with the IOC at the airport for my credentials, and as luck would have it the Austrian and Australian men's and women's ski teams were just in front of me in line. So it took a bit. There was a cool shrine at the airport that I dropped in and visited while searching for the IOC.

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Searching for the TM6 bus to the Omega 14 Hotel proved a bit interesting. At least volunteers out at the curb had enough wit to call someone else on their cell phone when they saw this American coming with a cart full of luggage. The three of them argued for a bit, got me turned around and eventually my cart tipped over and all the badges tumbled into the oncoming traffic at the Sochi Airport.

Hotel Construction.JPG
Once settled on the bus and unloaded at a guard shack that reminded me of "Iron Curtain" days, the bus pulled away as a bell boy appeared and opened the gate to the massive hotel complex. This media hotel complex has 18 pods of buildings. They all look alike and I am sure I will get lost during my trip. But the ladies at the reception were a delight.

Hotel receptionist.JPGThere are cranes all around working through the night. They are scrambling to finish this place. My room is nice, the toilet leaks, but hey, so does my boat, so no worries. So far I feel plenty safe, but more on that as we move forward.

So I'm settled in, unpacked and ready to explore the 2014 Winter Olympics. Let the Games begin!!

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