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The Russian government spent $51 billion on Sochi’s 2014 Winter Olympics resort – this corner of the Black Sea was given a new lease of life thanks to the arrival of the Winter Games, with the Adler Arena and Fisht Stadium playing host to tens of thousands of spectators from across the globe. However, once the Olympic flame went out in Sochi, there were genuine concerns about the long-term stability of the city’s economic infrastructure. The government had spent a fortune on the 16-day event, which ran between 7th and 23rd February 2014, but how has the city fared since?
Overcoming its ‘ghost town’ tag
Many global media networks were concerned that Sochi would resemble something of a ghost town once the Winter Games had left Russia. Six months after the event, journalists’ worst fears were initial confirmed with huge swathes of the region left abandoned even with Russia’s inaugural Formula One racetrack being built here. The Sochi Autodrom, which would host the Russian Grand Prix from 2014 in a seven-year deal, was eventually built and has since successfully hosted the world’s best F1 drivers around the 3.634-mile circuit. That’s where the positivity in Sochi as a region kick-started once again. Perhaps the most significant reason for Sochi’s popularity in the years after the 2014 Winter Olympics was Russia’s financial crisis. The weakening rouble against the Swiss franc forced Russian ski fanatics to look closer to home to find their winter resort. According to the famous Kulm Hotel, there were some 10% fewer Russians hitting the Swiss slopes in 2015. That’s where Sochi has successfully helped to fill the void. With 25 miles of slopes and trails to explore, winter sports facilities to rival anywhere else on the planet and ample accommodation, Sochi has quickly positioned itself as one of the best ski resorts for Russian winter holidaymakers.
From white elephant to year-round holiday resort
Image source: Pixabay.com
Sochi’s subtropical climate meant that, prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, the city was considerably more popular in the summer months. However, its reputation as a premier Russian ski resort now means that Sochi is an all-year-round holiday destination. In fact, the city’s officials have confirmed that they welcomed 6.5 million tourists in 2016 and are on track to hit the same figure in 2017. During the summer months, the city centre hotels do a roaring trade, with the more remote mountain regions taking the slack. It’s a reverse story in the winter, when the mountain areas are teeming with skiers and the city centre provides a safe backup plan for visitors. The city is also benefitting greatly from easier gambling legislation by the Russian government. In recent times, it has agreed to create casino ‘gambling zones’ across the country, with Sochi named on the ‘safe list’ of towns for natives to gamble in. The city has wasted no time at all in maximizing the potential revenue streams of having a high-profile casino and entertainment resort. The Sochi Casino & Resort opened its doors on 5th January 2017, providing 569 slot and gaming machines, 10 dedicated poker tables and 70 classic table games for its customers. The venue also played host to major poker events this year, with plenty more in the pipeline for 2018.
Sochi and the 2018 FIFA World Cup
2018 is going to be a particularly exciting year for Sochi and Russia as a whole. The eyes of the football world will be on the nation when it plays host to the 2018 FIFA World Cup from 14th June – 15th July. This will be the first World Cup to be hosted in Europe since 2006 – after Brazil hosted the last tournament in 2014. 32 national teams will do battle for the right to win the 21st FIFA World Cup and the Jules Rimet trophy. Sochi’s Fisht Olympic Stadium, with a capacity of 47,659, will play host to 6 matches during the tournament, including at least one quarter-final fixture. The Fisht Olympic Stadium will be the southernmost venue in the tournament and with great weather expected during this period, the city will be bracing themselves for World Cup fever with all its hotels brimming with visitors once again. The first fixture will be on Friday 15th June at 9pm between neighbours Portugal and Spain in what is sure to be a fierce opening encounter.
With $55 million recouped in tax revenues for the regional government, according to Sergei Domorat, head of Sochi’s Department of Resorts and Tourism, the Russian government has certainly been vindicated in its investment in Sochi’s infrastructure, creating an environment fit not only for major winter sporting events but summer championships too. If you’re planning a trip to Russia to experience the FIFA 2018 World Cup, Sochi would be a great base thanks to its mild summer climate. With average temperatures of 25 degrees in June and the Krasnodarskiy Krai region considered one of if not the safest area of Russia, it’s a win-win holiday destination for next year.