Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman. This is The World. T-minus one for Sochi. Opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics are not ‘til Friday, but the very first events of the game are scheduled for tomorrow. One of them is slopestyle snowboarding. We told you about some of the hazards of the course the other day, and there are still some concerns about how safe it is. Today, the top American contender, Sean White, pulled out of the event. He said the risk of injury was too great for him. White will still be competing later in his top event, the Halfpipe. But even so, it’s hard not to get caught up in the buzz of Olympic excitement, with the game so close now. Must be different, though, from a Russian perspective. Yekaterina Kravtsova is with the Moscow Times and has been reporting in Sochi. I asked her weigh in on Russia’s excitement and anxiety equation right now.
Yekaterina Kravtsova: This is my second time in Sochi. I've been there five years ago, and of course, the city has been changed just dramatically. I couldn't recognize anything. There’s so many new buildings.
Werman: So, Yekaterina, in the US, we've been seeing these pictures tweeted out of unfinished hotel rooms, stray dogs in the streets, construction sites. We’re not really seeing a picture of a city ready for the Olympics. What have you been hearing from residents of Sochi?
Kravtsova: As I've heard from the residents of Sochi, they think that it was a construction site, the whole Sochi, and it still is a construction site in some ways. Yeah, in central Sochi, I've seen also large hotels and they’re still not ready to welcome any of the delegations or journalists. So yeah, the photos are true.
Werman: Right. What about safety concerns? Anybody worried about that?
Kravtsova: Actually, I’m pretty surprised. I think no, because I've been writing about security stuff, pretty much when I was in Moscow and yeah, everyone was so concerned about that. But here, I wouldn't say that people are really worried about security. And there are lots of policemen on the streets.
Werman: Right, so certainly not a big concern for the locals who are there. Now, you found your way into an Irish pub of all places in Sochi. Is that a new pub that was built, kind of for the Olympics?
Kravtsova: I don’t think it was built for the Olympics. I think it was open probably a year ago. It really has a atmosphere of an Irish pub if you just go inside, but it is not, because yeah, there is like, Russian music playing.
Werman: Right, and then suddenly you start talking to the patrons there and you realize that they’re a pretty cynical bunch and they’re probably Russian, so what did they say to you about the Olympics?
Kravtsova: Yeah, I talked to a bartender named Sergei. He said he was not very positive about the Olympics and he said this Irish pub doesn't really welcome visitors with the Olympics because he said he didn't really like them, especially special volunteers.
Werman: I gather some people in that pub were also pretty, like, just not mincing words. â€œEff the Olympics,â€ one guy said to you.
Kravtsova: Yeah, that’s true. Actually, I wouldn't say that people talk about the Olympics all the time in Sochi, including this pub. You need to ask them. It is really interesting for me because yesterday, I met an old man on the street and I met him just in time when the President’s scooters passed us, and the road was blocked. He said it was really annoying in some ways, because when Soviet leaders came to Sochi for holidays, there was no such security measures for that.
Werman: Well, is anybody excited? I mean, the world is descending on this Black Sea resort.
Kravtsova: I wouldn't say that I feel like there’s much excitement in the air.
Kravtsova: Yeah, but I think that it’s probably because the games haven’t started yet. And I think the same thing happened in London in 2012, because everyone was really annoyed about the Olympics, and I was there, so I, yeah, seen that. But when the games started, the mood of every London resident has been changed. Everyone was a part of the big celebration, so I hope the same story will happen in Sochi just in a couple of days.
Werman: Yekaterina Kravtsova is with the Moscow Times, who’s been reporting out of Sochi. Thanks very much or your time.
Kravtsova: Thank you.