In February, 2014 Sochi will host the Winter Olympic Games.
Controversy has surrounded Sochi since it was selected to be host city in 2007. As the opening ceremony nears, the notes of discord remain in the air. Heads of some states, including the United States, Canada and France, have refused to attend the Games' opening ceremony because of Russia's policies towards members of the LBGT community. And the displaced Circassian people have used the event as a medium to express their historical grievances.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, hoping to use the Olympics as a publicity booster, has sustained a damaging reversal. He wanted to show off a brand-new Russia, but the process has been filled with questions of embezzlement, corruption, and waste. The Games represented a unique opportunity for Sochi to join the ranks of the famous European resorts. It seems that this dream has fizzled.
In the past few years, Sochi has changed a lot. New railways and roads were built, dozens of hotels were constructed, luxury ski resorts were established. All of these improvements are available for use by visitors and Russian citizens alike.
But not all the changes have been for the better. Sochi has irreversibly lost its status as a verdant summer capital. Hundreds of ugly and low-grade buildings and houses cover the landscape. Development has run out of control, demolishing and paving over gardens and squares all over the city. The city suffers from the spike in traffic and its streets are crowded with parked vehicles, due to the lack of parking infrastructure.
In the past, Sochi was a famous health resort. Each summer, hundreds of thousands of people came to the city to enjoy splendid palaces, take in the sun and visit the healing water bathes. Today, almost all the old sanatoriums have fallen into neglect. The most famous, Ordzhonikidze, has been "under reconstruction" for three years — yet construction never seems to begin.
Many of the locals feel alienated from their own homes. Their roots have been cut off while they have been encouraged to adapt to a new environment. For all their unrest, their wishes seem to fall on deaf ears.