SOCHI, Russia: Russian President Vladimir Putin chose the seaside resort of Sochi for the Winter Olympics site several years ago. He saw the potential as a lure for international travelers – having himself enjoyed many a vacation in the waterfront location, as well as in the mountain.
Many Russians, from all over this country’s expanse, have trekked to this haven to celebrate this symbol of national pride.
What many found, however, was shocking – a hit to their hard-earned savings accrued from an average annual salary approximating only $10,000 USD.
Apart from the sky-high Opening Ceremony tickets, a single ticket to a medal event, such as men’s hockey or figure skating, would set a commoner back nearly a half-month’s salary.
Compounding these expenses were inflated nightly rates for lodging (within the low – upper hundred dollar range), and even moderately priced meals (approximating $30-40 per seating).
Yet, likely the most egregious of inflated prices was quite evident at the Sochi Olympic merchandise stores. This national favorite chain of sporting gear stores had a strong, near-monopolistic grip on this market. Here high-priced items like t-shirts ($60-70), warm-up suits ($200-300), and even jackets for over $300 pulled at the fans’ tight budgets.
Taking advantage of this captive, yet proud, audience was this Sochi Olympics Organizing Committee which all sought to reap in profits. While selling official Olympics clothing, on par with Bosco’s pricing scheme, this organizer also gouged the consumer for even simpler items.
Pins, a cheap and universal way to own a piece of the Olympics, were way overpriced. These metallic trinkets, featuring sports symbols and mascots, ranged in price from $12 - $30. At past Olympics, these simple treasures could be enjoyed for as low as $8 and typically costing no more than $16.
In a frank conversation with a Russian visitor who could only afford to stay in Sochi for a long weekend, he said, “Most Russians, especially those (millions) in the countryside, could never afford such prices during the Olympics or any other time in Sochi.”