The sun rose over Sochi today and revealed a landscape that I both did and did not expect. Yes, there is a lot of mud. But mostly, it is (so far) confined to places where I have not needed to walk. And every journalist seems to have a home, even though they may lack light bulbs or power. (I am lucky. My room's only problem seems to be a shower drain that doesn't work. Or works alarmingly slowly.)
The view from my hotel room in the mountains is stunning. The snow-capped jagged peaks of the Caucasus are like the Rockies or the Alps. For all the talk of palm trees and balmy coastal temperatures, the Winter Olympic Games seem real in these mountains. If I keep my eyes up staring at the Caucasus, I don't see the mud. Or the ongoing construction.
As Bode Miller pointed out in a press conference today, all five of the Olympics that he's participated in have had issues leading up to the Games, including the Salt Lake City Olympics. But once the Games begin, everything - especially minor nuisances - drifts to the periphery. Or in the case of journalists' hotels, they become too busy to care.
My hotel is located at what's called level 960, 960 meters above sea level and 420 meters above the Mzymta River valley. Level 960 appears to be where most of the unfinished hotels are located. Walking amongst the unfinished buildings, all designed in a massive Byzantine style, it looks a bit like a Roman ruin. But inside, the lights are on and in my hotel, hot water flows (though does not necessarily drain, nor is it very clear). The buffet breakfast is also loaded with fruit and fresh-cooked delicious food - a stark comparison to food at the media centers, which was described by one reporter as "beyond horrible."
The only way to reach level 960 is by a 10-minute gondola ride. It's as if an entire village of hotels was built at Stowe's Cliff House at the top of its gondola. It's beautiful, but not entirely practical. We've been told that the gondola will shut down once each night for maintenance, but they don't tell us exactly when. And with events like moguls ending at 11:30 p.m., many of us won't be returning to our level 960 hotels until 2 or 3 a.m. Also, high winds might shut it down at any time, leaving us either stranded down in the valley or in our hotels. Ok, then.
But other than this potential snafu, it's a lovely area. And if the ski area were open (either called Gornaya Karusel or Krasnaya Polyana - no one is really sure), it would be tempting to take a couple of runs below these cathedral-like peaks.
Maybe on a day when the gondola stops working...
PO Box 4508