I awoke to brilliant blue skis outside this morning on the mountain top in Sochi, Russia. Yesterday was cloudy and foggy so today was the first time I was able to see what else is out there. It is one of the most beautiful vistas I’ve seen with mountains surrounding the entire mountaintop village where we are living. When you look closer though, within the confines of the Biathlon and Cross-Country Venues, the Sochi Organizing Committee has a TON of work left to do! The chalet’s which will house some (but not all) of the cross-country and biathlon athletes are fairly complete, but the rest of the structures – additional housing, dining facilities, roads, walkways, etc. – are largely unfinished. The trek to the venue consists of navigating on and around a bunch of semi-finished paths and buildings. But the actual stadium and venue are just about finished.
The tracks are brutal. The course climbs about 300m right out of the stadium and then descends almost 600m before another 600m climb, the longest sustained climb I’ve witnessed on a modern biathlon course. From there, it’s a few hundred meters of undulating terrain and then a fast downhill back into the stadium. All of the courses, from 2km up to 4km incorporate the major climbs I just discussed.
The stadium itself is by far, the biggest, most expansive stadium I’ve ever seen. The Timing and Press building is about ten stories high. I’m not sure what they plan on doing with all that space, especially considering that they are planning to cap the spectators at a total of 5,000! This is perhaps the most disappointing part about the Sochi venue. They built one of the most expensive venues in the world, destroyed a huge swath of untouched mountaintop, and they’re only going to bring 5,000 spectators up to see it? If that’s the case, this will be one of the smallest crowds assembled for a biathlon World Cup-calibre event. Kind of strange when you think about how big biathlon is as a sport in Russia.
From a competitor’s standpoint, I’m excited to race on the new venue. I think they’ve done a great job with the tracks and the venue preparations. It will definitely be a great World Cup!