Russian TV star, Yana Churikova, declared to the crowd at the Olympic stadium that Sochi is, for the moment, the center of the universe. But for one Boston businessman, Sochi has been his universe for a while.
Paul Varadian is a Boston consultant and a former bobsled and skeleton athlete. Varadian has been a frequent visitor to Sochi for the past few years, working on behalf of European clients who've needed to secure accommodations and other assistance.
He heard all the reports about the last-minute construction frenzy and the unfinished hotel rooms. And he wasn't surprised.
“Every Olympic games that we’ve ever had has always been a last minute rush to completion. In this case, it was even more challenging because you had the world’s largest construction project going on in a country that’s never done this sort of stuff," he says.
"This is the largest sporting event in the world and there is an enormous amount of infrastructure that goes into it," he says. "Each country is bringing its own set of athletes, families, sponsors, and media.”
And then there are the security issues in a region of political instability. But Varadian says the city of Sochi was a natural choice.
“Russia is a very large country with eleven time zones, and this was the only place where existing ski areas were functioning, and so it was the choice of the Russian government to essentially promote Sochi.
“A lot of people don’t know, but as soon as the Olympics are over, they’ll build a Formula 1 track in the middle of the Olympic village for an October race," explains Varadian. "And Sochi will also host games for the 2018 soccer World Cup.”
Varadian found working with the local Sochi authorities quite challenging.
“You’re talking about a community that has never seen foreigners. No one has ever done a business transaction with anybody outside of Russia," he says. "The people of Sochi have not experienced this kind of international event, this is something that’s been dropped on them — it’s really a shell shock.”