Sochi’s Olympic transformation
Starting Friday, the world will turn its attention to Sochi, Russia, for the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics. But before it was the center of sporting spectacle, Sochi was just a quaint resort town along the Black Sea coast and, ironically, one of the warmest places in the entire country.
Don’t be fooled by the palm trees–the Black Sea itself is pretty cold. And the Caucasus Mountains on the north side of the city make it a not entirely bizarre place to host this year’s Winter Games.
Still, it took a lot of work–and money–to transform this 30-mile stretch of Russian Riviera into what you’ll be seeing over the course of the Olympics. According to Bloomberg estimates, Russia spent more than $50 billion on the Winter Games, making it the most expensive Olympics in history.
Additionally, Human Rights Watch has documented hundreds of cases of alleged abuse against the laborers who built Olympic sites, including lack of pay and hasty deportations. The construction has also taken an ecological toll on the city and surrounding region.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has directed 60,000 police officers, troops, and special forces to Sochi. Suffice it to say, that quaint resort town along the Black Sea coast is nothing more than a distant memory.