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Sochi Olympics 2014 - What was it Like?

After 26 hours of flying and 15 hours of sitting around (rushing around lost in one) 5 different airports I had made it to Sochi, Russia!

The Olympic hype was evident, as soon as I exited the plane in Sochi. The airport was decorated with Sochi 2014 branding everywhere. Then the arrivals hall stepped it up another notch, with a massive amount of people waiting for guests, and enough volunteers to sink a U.S. battle ship.

There were signs for NBC, Panasonic, Canadian Athletes, CBS, OBC, Coca-Cola, P & G. Faces and signs for miles. I am not going to lie my heart rate went up as my eyes got overwhelmed with the crowd and its eyes staring back at me. Thank goodness my ears were working and I picked up on a faint "Paula Paula over here". Ah phew, my eyes hit a sign saying Paula Mitchell. Instant relief.

I was whisked away to my hotel in a Volkswagen Sochi 2014 branded car. What was I doing there and who was picking me up? Well, that is another story for another week. This week I want to focus on the games in general, how it really was from a spectator perspective and to show off all my photos. Early next week, we will then wrap up on the New Zealand results and finally let you in on why I was really there.

My first impressions are WOW, amazing, and then snap snap snap from my camera. I am instantly impressed. After all the media reports before the games began, I wondered what I would discover. From my perspective (my hotel was very much finished and the water ran beautifully clear) things looked amazing. The Olympic Park was my first stop, which consisted of the Olympic stadium and also the different stadiums that the curling, speed skating, figure skating and ice hockey would all take place. By day everything here looks amazing, and then by night, it blows me away. Lights and lit up buildings galore.

My next stop is the mountain cluster of Rosa Khutor. Sure I did spy a couple of unfinished buildings, but it looked like it was just a few of the upper floors and it was only because I was looking for them. The outsides where all completed. One thing I did see, and totally a low priory were that the park benches had not quite made it out onto the sidewalk (it didn’t matter).

Safety, I felt nothing but safe there. The police presence was incredible. Even on the highways a policeman was present at virtually each turn off. Almost unbelievable. Not sure what they were there for, but their presence was certainly felt. And then of course were the guys with the guns, who were only somewhat obliging to take a photo with me. I think I won them over with my smile, and those posed for just long enough to click a photo!

The events. My first event was ski moguls. The stadium was awesome. Again enough volunteers to sink a ship. As soon as they hear you speaking English, they say “hello, welcome”. Snowboard halfpipe was another one on my list and again from a spectator’s point of view, an amazing event. The grand stands where massive, you could even buy a coke and fries, and the bathroom facilities were clean - there were certainly no sign of the double loo! that media seemed to get a hold of before the games began. Those Russians even have a sense of humour if you see the picture below.

There is one more final thing I must mention, and that is the volunteers. Now although there was trouble communicating at stages of my trip, I admit however my Russian was non-existent and I was not expecting a lot of English. The volunteers however, nailed it. They were all so stoked to be there. Dancing and smiling and ready to help. If they did not speak English, they would run and find someone who did.

My best experience was in Moscow airport. Yes they are in all the main hubs too. I was running very late to catch my connection, so approached a group of volunteers of which no one spoke English, so one ran to find someone who did. This young girl escorted me through the bag claim to the domestic terminal, dealt with all my flight changes at a variety of different desks (pretty sure she argued for me to get on the next flight and not wait till morning too, but it was hard to tell) and then took me right up to the security check at the domestic gates. Hugged me and wished me well. Incredible. I probably would have ended up in tears in that Moscow maze without her help. The volunteers rocked!

Well that pretty much wraps up my general impression of Sochi 2014. Enjoy the photos are stay tuned for next week, when I wrap up the events and the Kiwi and Aussies results.

Posted By: Paula Mitchell, @ Fri, 21st Feb 2014

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