Sochi`s shocking secret: It`s absolutely beautiful

Author: us-russia
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Sochi`s shocking secret: It`s absolutely beautiful
Published 7-02-2014, 05:28
If anyone still sent postcards, this would make a nice one. Source: NewsComAuWHILE the world continues to hone in on security issues and half-finished facilities, here's something you might like to know about Winter Olympics host city Sochi.

It's actually incredibly beautiful, especially up in the mountains, where the bulk of Australia's athletes will compete.

Sochi is Russia's southernmost and warmest city, and the unsnowy surrounds of the coastal Olympic venues have left an unflattering impression.

Just 50km inland, the landscape is entirely different. This is where the bulk of the $50 billion budget has been spent, and it shows. Almost $10 billion was spent on road and rail access to the existing mountain town of Krasnaya Polyana, which means "Red Glade" in Russian.

The train route and highway end a couple of kilometres down the road at the entirely new $2.6 billion resort Rosa Khutor.

Styled like a 19th century German spa town, Rosa Khutor is a little lego/gingerbread house-like. But the buses run on time, everything works and the riverside walk is alive with joggers and tourists. 

Rosa Khutor occupies every inch of available space in the narrow river valley.

Rosa Khutor occupies every inch of available space in the narrow river valley. Source: NewsComAu 

Rosa Khutor might not be the real Russia, or even the real Sochi, but it is really pleasant. And this is just one of many towns which have sprung up along the new highway.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has attracted criticism for everything from the environmental impacts of the Sochi Olympics to the manner in which building contracts were dished out to some of his favourite billionaires.

Corruption, nepotism and environmental vandalism have become virtual bywords for these Olympics, along with the threat of terrorism. 

Sochi's best kept ...

Even these men in black can manage a smile. Source: NewsComAu 

For all this, one thing is often forgotten. The largest, snowiest nation on Earth now has a winter playground to rival the Alps.

As many as 35 new ski lifts have been built in the ski resorts dotted around Krasnaya Polyana, all of them swift and modern and often audacious in the way they head directly up near-vertical slopes.

While the city of Sochi is a landscape of green rolling hills, the Caucasus mountains are a terrain of majestic alpine spires and magnificent birch forests.

Amid this landscape, about halfway up the mountain at Rosa Khutor, is the athletes' village. No such facility has ever been constructed in such a grand setting.

To stand there on a windless blue Russian winter day is to stand in one of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth. 

And it's not just the mountains which are beau...

And it’s not just the mountains which are beautiful. Source: NewsComAu 

Australian moguls skier Taylah O'Neill was so taken with the athletes' village that she described it as like a scene out of The Wizard of Oz.

"It's like nowhere I've ever been before," O'Neill said. "It kind of reminded me of the yellow brick road because you just kept following the road up and up and it kept taking you to more places."

The Australian Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman said "It's a glorious setting, all brand new, of course, sitting high on a ridge and looking out over a magnificent valley, with pristine, fresh snow."

The athletes' village is situated directly adjacent to the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, where snowboarding and freestyle skiing events will be conducted.

Many of the courses funnel down into one huge amphitheatre for spectators - a design feature which should make for a fantastic atmosphere.

Mountain crews were hard at work on the courses yesterday, pushing mounds of snow around to construct jumps and other course features on the ski cross and slopestyle courses. 

Pushing white powder is perfectly acceptable behaviour in these parts.

Pushing white powder is perfectly acceptable behaviour in these parts. Source: NewsComAu 

Australian snowboarder Torah Bright yesterday attacked the course designers, declaring them below the standard of "the best in the business".

Bright may be right, just as other critics of these Olympics almost certainly have valid points.

But here's another truth. The setting for mountain events at these Olympics could be the most spectacular ever seen at any Summer or Winter Games.

Amid the relentless negativity, not everything in Sochi is a disaster. Far from it, in fact.

Any day now, Anthony Sharwood will start reporting on the Winter Olympics running from February 7-24. Say hi to him in Russia at@antsharwood.

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