Background to Sochi

The Sochi mascots sitting in the snow

Man carrying the Olympic torch for SochiRussians have always known Sochi as a holiday resort city on the Black Sea, about as far to the south-west as you can get in this enormous country. It also has the distinction of being one of the world’s longest cities at 145 kilometers in length. For an idea of scale, that would be like Blackpool stretching from the southern Lake District to Rhyl, or Brighton stretching from Portsmouth to Hastings. The length has been the result of growth and the amalgamation of neighbouring seaside towns.

This one-dimension spread isn’t merely because of a love of the sea air, however. There are only a few miles between the shores and the foothills of Western Caucasus, and that doesn’t leave much room to build on – except by spreading outwards. The mountains are also, of course, key to Sochi’s successful bid – because in the winter months they almost always get a healthy coating of beautiful, deep snow.

Like most Winter Olympics (indeed most Olympics of either season), the Sochi games take place in more than one location. There are two clusters – the one in the city itself (which hosts the indoor sports such as skating) and the mountain cluster (where the skiing, jumping and snowboarding events are held). The two locations are about 50 km apart but are pretty compact within the villages. By contrast the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City took place in around ten distinct venues, as did the Turin games in 2006 and the Vancouver games in 2010.

The Sochi mascots sitting in the snow

With plenty of unrest in the geographical neighbourhood, it’s no secret that security is a major concern at Sochi, but the organisers believe that having all events within two self-contained villages will make it much easier to police and keep secure.

The Mountain Cluster is around the town of Krasnaya Polyana, about 40 kilometres inland. It’s an existing ski resort, although needless to say, it’s undergone a good deal of development to bring it up to competition standard and install seating and infrastructure. Here, the skiing, snowboarding, bobsleigh and luge events will take place.

The Coastal Cluster is a circular area about 1.2 km in diameter that’s located in the Adler area in the south east part of the city, about 4 km from the border of Georgia. This is where the skating and curling events will take place, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies and the medal ceremonies. The main athletes’ village will be located here, as well as the press and broadcasting centre. There’s seating for over 80,000 between the various venues. In October, when the Olympic athletes have all gone home, the Olympic village will play host to the 16th round of the Formula One championship.

With a lot of a British interest this year with a number of medal hopefuls having made the trip over to Russia, the Chill Factore in Manchester have produced a guide to Sochi and the Winter Olympic events. You can follow all the progress of Team GB athletes throughout the games on the Chill Factore website.