Imagining Sochi, the City of Future, in Future

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Imagine if time goes really fast, tomorrow will be the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics Game 2014, what would happen in Sochi? 

Assuming the ceremony is supposed to start at 9 am in the morning, there would be half of the audience who can’t come punctually because of the traffic jam. Even if you are one of a few people who arrive at the venue on time, the inefficient security check will certainly take a long time as if it will last for decades. While you are waiting, you will soon realize that the principle “first comes first serves” doesn’t work, the reverted norm is “push first go first”. 

Under the burning sun, do you feel like drinking something? Yeah, let’s go to the store and get a bottle of coke. When you are about to pay, you will be shocked by how dramatic the inflation in Sochi can be. What? RUB 100 for a small bottle of coke with only 750 ml? The price is almost three times than Hong Kong, a double than Krasnodar and even more expensive than Amsterdam.

Welcome to Sochi, the city of future, where its shops try to make as much money as possible during the peak season so that the owners will have sufficient amount of money for their foreseeable future. That’s how the city has been working every summer although the shops in 2014 try to push up the price a bit further because of the relatively well-off international audience.

A good meal probably will cheer you up in midst of despair. Imagine that you randomly pick a restaurant at the street corner. Please do not be surprised there are no English captions and no pictures in the menu. When you try to seek for clarification from the waiters, the only response you will get is the same sentence in Russian with different volume. 

Come on, I am not deaf. I just don’t understand the language. 

When you walk along the street, try to avoid looking at people’s eyes. Otherwise it is very likely that you will face one of the three most common scenarios: 

1. People look at you in a strange way as if they’re looking at the animals in zoo. 

2. People stare at you slightly aggressively as if they’re going to have a fight with you.

3. People greet you and approach you. And then the only word they are able to say to you in English is: “money”.

Are people in Sochi that bad? Of course not, but the piece certainly reflects part of the reality of the city. Even though the situation is a bit exaggerated, it could still happen if the city doesn’t reflect on the small problems which are taken for granted throughout the years. 

I have no doubt that the city is undergoing a drastic makeover before the Winter Olympics come. Nevertheless, the makeover should not be just about the infrastructure, such as how big the venue is or how many banners are visible across the city.

The investment on the Winter Olympics Game differs from the money invested on Lehman Brother Bonds. It is not something short-term, but something long-term which is sustainable and visionary to the city and the country. If the tourists find their experiences in Sochi memorable and enjoyable, they won’t mind coming back to Sochi even there is no Winter Olympics Game. If the event is the greatest ever in its history, the world will change the way they look at Russia and Russians. 

In other words, good reputation is the key to the future, and that lies on the word of mouth from every guest of the game, instead of the artificial slogan or promotion materials like a banner or a piece of press release. 

Cheers for the City of Future: Press on regardless.

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About Brian Yeung

Growing up in Hong Kong, pearl of the orient, I have been exposed to many cultures throughout my upbringing, from Sushi to British Top Talents and Tetris. And yet, after my stay in Europe, Russia and Southeast Asia for study and work, I realise a lot of cultural perception and presentation are just myths and stereotypes. Exploring the real accent of a particular country and its culture becomes my agenda of traveling. I value travel as a way to discover the diversity of life choices. After all, life is just the consequence of our many life choices; the one who is aware of its diversity is the luckiest person alive.

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