As thousands of tourists come to Sochi from around the world, Russian organisers hope the city will benefit from being in the spotlight.
Organisers say that almost a third of tickets to the Olympic events were bought by non-Russians. It’s the moment of truth for a city aspiring to become Russia’s first choice holiday destination after its Olympic transformation.
While just 50 kilometres away there are snow covered mountains, Sochi itself is a seaside resort with a subtropical climate, something that’s come as a surprise to many visitors.
One woman visiting from Scotland said: “It is very strange – it seems a bit odd to be looking at palm trees and blue skies, and not wearing a coat, and then tomorrow we’re going up to the mountains, and we’ll be in the snow. So yeah, it seems very strange!”
Security has been the main concern after Islamic militants threatened to derail the Winter Games. Railway stations are only accessible through security zones where passengers face an airport-like body search and bag checks.
For most visitors though the security measures are seen as a minor inconvenience.
One tourist from Scotland said: “Because there’ve been alerts about terrorism, I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t some security – but I haven’t found it too intrusive. I think it’s sensible, when you go into big venues they search you, put your bags through the detectors and so on. But I think that’s a pretty sensible level of response to the concerns that have been.”
Another man who had come from France agreed: “Honestly, compared to what we were told in Europe, in France, I think there is security but it’s not annoying. There’s security for entering the site, but there’s no problem with the level of security.”
Martial Simonneau opened his first restaurant in Sochi in 2006, before the city was awarded the 2014 Winter Games. Later he moved his base of operations to the city centre where he and his son have jointly developed a French seafood restaurant, “Cafe Brigantina and Brasserie”. He says Sochi reminds him of his native Nice, but with less taxes.
“Really in Sochi, it’s great at the moment., there are lots of people, it’s a party, it’s really good. I’m happy. And for business its really good too,” Simonneau said.
One regular at the Olympic games is D-Rolf from East Germany. He has brought his Trabant car to all the Olympic Games since the fall of the Berlin wall to help encourage friendship between people of different countries.