Now that the 2012 Olympics have drawn to a close, the world’s Olympic fans will now turn their attention toward the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. USA Luge CEO Ron Rossi and USA Luge Marketing Manager Dmitry Feld traveled to Sochi in the spring to accomplish a number of important goals. Read Dmitry’s account of the trip...a must-read if you are thinking of being a part of what will be an unforgettable Olympic experience.
Sochi 2014: Dmitry Feld’s Report from Russia for Luge Fans
In anticipation of the upcoming 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, USA Luge CEO Ron Rossi and I visited Russia during the homologation (certification) of the new Olympic track during the week of March 5 to 9. The purpose of the visit was three-fold: besides Ron’s attendance at the luge track homologation in Krasnaya Polyana, I scouted housing/tour operators/transportation/entertainment options for sponsors, families and friends in Sochi/Krasnaya Polyana as well as Moscow, and to establish contacts with local sports authorities who could prove helpful to us during the Games. I left New York City on March 4 and returned on March 10th with 2.5 day stop in Moscow and a 3 day stay in Sochi/Krasnaya Polyana. Ron skipped the 2.5 days in Moscow, opting, instead, to go straight to Sochi.
Ron and I specifically choose Aeroflot (Russian Airline) to fly to Moscow and later to Sochi with the idea of investigating their services.
Overall, Aeroflot provided very good coach services, departing and arriving on time, with good in-flight entertainment. We had dinner and breakfast on the NY to Moscow flight, and then lunch from Moscow to Sochi and breakfast from Sochi to Moscow. The cost was very reasonable - some $100 to $200 less than we could find with a US carrier. As with any business class, it looked very comfortable and spacious, with freshly prepared meals, plenty of drinks, etc.
Aeroflot is a member of the Star Alliance (the largest airline alliance in the world). By joining the Aeroflot Bonus program, the mileage you accrue can be used on other Star Alliance airlines, including Delta, KLM/Air France, Korea Air and others.
Before you decide to travel to Russia, make sure that you have a current USA Passport that will not expire for at least six months after you anticipate ending your visit to Russia. You will also need to get a visa to enter Russia, at a cost of approximately $150 (if you decide to pursue the visa on your own through the Russian Embassy in Washington or the Russian Consulate in New York City), or you can work with agencies who specialize on securing visas to Russia and who will charge you another $50-$100 for those services. One of the agencies that I can recommend is the Russian-American Consulting Corporation, based in New York City. HOWEVER - Be prepared not to have your passport in your possession for 4-6 weeks (unless you are willing to pay nearly double the price for expedited services) as the Russian Embassy or Consulate claims it can take that long to process the visa (you must send your passport with the application at the time of mailing)
As all of you know, the 2014 Olympic Winter Games will be hosted in Sochi, Russia from February 7th through 23rd. Opening Ceremonies occur on February 7th - followed by the luge events from February 8th through February 13th. Draft schedule of the events is as follow: February 8th - two runs men’s singles, February 9th - final two runs men’s singles (medals awarded), February 10th two runs women’s singles, February 11th final two runs women’s singles (medals awarded), February 12th both doubles runs (medals awarded), February 13th team relay (medals awarded).
For those of you who never visited Russia before and want a more thorough level of exposure to the Russian culture, I would highly recommend flying through Moscow and spending at least 2-3 days visiting Moscow and surrounded areas. Part of my visit this time involved establishing contacts with the local office for the Russian Ministry of Sport, travel/tour guide agencies, hospitality companies and others. To our benefit, Ludus Tours (www.ludustours.com), who is USA Luge’s sponsor/hospitality provider, sent one of their managers (Raffaella Cinti) to meet with me and to be part of this very busy trip.
Dmitry Feld and Feld and Raffaella Cinti behind Red Square
Lenin’s Tomb in Red Square
Moscow is a very memorable place to visit. Since it is no longer Communist, the new Russian travel/hospitality industry is doing real well in providing services for tourists from around the world, including the USA.
I would encourage all of you to visit Moscow with me (or without me) and I know that all of you will have a great time in Moscow that will result in fantastic memories that will last a lifetime. Here are some sample scheduling ideas for you to consider, and how Moscow can become an important stopover on your trip:
If you just have time to see the first half of the Luge events: arrive in Moscow on February 4th or 5th - depart to Sochi on February 7th to attend Opening Ceremonies - watch two days of men’s luge on February 8 and 9th (and even catch one downhill event) - then depart back to the USA on February 10th. Even with this short trip (6/7 days) it will give you an opportunity to see Moscow and the Olympic Winter Games.
If you are planning to watch the middle portion of the luge events: arrive in Sochi on February 9th - watch two days of women’s luge on February 10th and 11th - depart to Moscow on February 12th - and return home on February 14th.
If you are planning to attend the end of the luge competitions: arrive in Sochi on February 11th - watch the luge doubles event on February 12th, the Team Relay on February 13th - then depart for Moscow on February 14th and return home on February 16th.
Here are some pricing options, as of today, in Moscow to give you a rough idea of what to expect. Of course, in two years, prices are expected to go up by about 5-10%.
Economy hotel - two person room: $160 per night, single room: $130
Priority Hotel (Holiday Inn) - two person room: $260 per night, single room: $210
VIP (Marriott) - two person room: $370 per night, single room: $310
All hotels - breakfast and taxes are included in the price.
Lunch at a Russian restaurant: around $25 per person.
Dinner: from $25-$50 per person.
Excursions in Moscow:
Red square, Kremlin, entry into the Kremlin and a visit to a nearby military museum. Cost per person: $80. Tour is around 6 hours.
Sergeev Posad (center of Russian Orthodox Church) includes entry into the main Church buildings, visiting a souvenir bazaar, a Moscow Metro tour, and a trip to Arbat Street. Cost per person: $60. Tour is over 6 hours.
Moscow Circus - tickets range from $40-$100.
I’m also trying to arrange a cooking demonstration by one of the Moscow Master Chefs.
Of course, it is entirely up to you to be part of the USA Luge/Ludus Tours effort to arrange a visit for you to Moscow and Sochi or, you are also welcome to arrange something on your own.
The 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi and Krasnaya Polyana
Sochi/Adler/Krasnaya Polyana: Greater Sochi (as what Russian’s call the area), is actually an accumulation of four different districts/cities. Greater Sochi occupies 145 kilometers of length along the Black Sea coastline. Its total area is 3,500 square kilometers and includes the Central Sochi City district, the Lazarev City district, the Host City District and most important for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, the Adler City District, which includes Krasnaya Polyana.
A photo taken in the city of Adler
The role of the Adler City district is most prominent because it will not only include all the indoor Olympic events, but also all of the outdoor Olympic events that will be hosted in Krasnaya Polyana (located about 40 miles north of Adler).
The Adler City district was chosen as the place of Sochi 2014 Olympic Coastal Cluster that will include the Olympic village, Media Center, Hotels for the IOC and sponsors, the stadium for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, Hockey, Skating and Curling, as well as all of the medal award ceremonies. Two new train stations (and an entirely new train line) will take visitors to Krasnaya Polyana (the Olympic Mountain cluster) where all the outdoor events will be held.
The city’s important transportation hubs include the Sochi/Adler International airport, the train terminal that not only connects Adler with the rest of the Russia, but also with new rapid train service to Krasnaya Polyana. The entire district currently looks like a single huge construction site.
The Sochi/Adler International Airport was built in 2010 in preparation for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Besides Aeroflot, there are regular international air connections with Austrian, (through Vienna), Turkish (through Istanbul) and Israeli airlines. It is possible that for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games some other airlines, including Lufthansa, will gain permission to fly to the Sochi/Adler International airport.
Domestic airlines include Aeroflot (13 daily flights from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport to Sochi) and Avianova Russian, a flight discounter that flies from Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Krasnodar. Two other Russian airlines - Transaero and Sky Express - fly to Sochi from Vnukovo and Domodedovo airports in Moscow. If you decide to use Aeroflot as your international carrier from the USA then you would not need to change airports in Moscow but be careful if you book other carriers to make sure an airport change isn’t in your plans as that is not very convenient.
If you decide to take a train from Moscow to Sochi it will take 25-28 hours as of today. However, the Russians are planning to start speed trains with a 15 hour route from Moscow to Sochi that they intend to have available before the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Housing and transportation in Adler and Krasnaya Polyana
Due to the fact that Adler and Krasnaya Polyana have been chosen as the sites of the Olympic competitions, for all of you who decide to attend the 2014 Olympic Games, I would recommend that you stay in Adler and commute by speed train (30 minutes) to Krasnaya Polyana to cheer for USA Luge as well as to see other outdoor events. Krasnaya Polyana is the size of Lake Placid with a local population of no more then 4,000 people. While hotel construction in Krasnaya Polyana is proceeding at a fevered pace, the amount of beds in the area will be limited - and it is still unclear just what level of cultural services will be available to make your non-event times more enjoyable.
That means that housing in Krasnaya Polyana will be very expensive and extremely tight. We learned that much of the housing in Krasnaya Polyana will be allocated to the media, IOC, and Russian government, further limiting the amount of hotel space that will be available.
Housing is very hard to come by in Krasnaya Polyana
Together with experienced hospitality manager Raffaella Cinti from Ludus Tours, we spent two full days driving around Krasnaya Polyana and Adler, meeting with hotel owners, real estate agents, and hospitality companies to discuss housing/hospitality and transportation issues.
Two years ago, while attending the FIL Congress in Sochi, with the help of the Russian Luge Federation, Ron and I established a working relationship with Sochi’s government and sport officials. Those officials were extremely hospitable on this visit and available for me and Raffaella to visit as many sites as time permitted. We also visited some very exclusive housing units in Krasnaya Polyana and Adler that are not yet available for the general public. The range of housing quality that we viewed was between two and five stars. The costs ranged was from $150 per night to $1,000 per night for a fantastic suite overlooking the Black Sea.
After visiting Krasnaya Polyana and Adler, Raffaella and I came to the conclusion that staying in Adler was probably the most prudent choice, as it was both affordable and enjoyable. Most of the housing that we visited in Adler was in about a 3-10 mile radius from the Adler International airport. As stated earlier, a new high-speed train will bring us to Krasnaya Polyana, and back to Adler village, the Black Sea, local sites of interest, shopping, restaurants, etc. Logistically, Adler is the best equipped place to stay. As an added benefit for our planning, it is expected that Raffaella Cinti will move to Sochi by the end of November 2012 to manage the Ludus Tours operation for the 2014 Games and to find places to stay for their clients, including USA Luge.
In all, the 2014 Olympic Winter Games will present a unique and unforgettable experience for families, friends, fans and supporters. We urge you to be a part of this one-in-a-lifetime experience!
For more information, please visit www.ludustours.com or contact Dmitry Feld via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).