SOCHI, Russia: Along the lulling, monotonous train ride en-route to the exciting Sochi Olympics mountain venues to catch men's bobsled, engaging conversations with friendly and inquisitive Russians often sprung up - anything to break the monotony of a state-of-the-art “high-speed” train’s rolling trek through a grey, stark countryside.
With my pin-laded media credential lanyard on display, several Russian passengers were eager to share their views and learn about mine – a distraction from staring at the dead, spindly trees, as well as unfinished construction sites where work is still in progress.
While we travelled at an approximate 20 mph pace, cars and buses zipped past us, along this $8 billion transportation corridor.
Muscovites Yuri and Alexei initially spoke about their frustrations at missing a previous mountain snowboarding event. Despite allowing sufficient time for travel per guidelines that were too optimistic, he and his comrades arrived just as the contest ended. His elongated trek, which I would soon be following, included four components: a train to bus to cable car to walking path route. “That’s how it is in Russia,” said Yuri in a satirical, ambivalent and even, lamentable way – a reluctant nod to the bureaucracy, cautiousness, and somewhat deceptive style that seems to permeate all that is Russia.
Steering the conversation back to me, they asked what I thought about the Sochi Olympics. I remarked that the Olympic Park, complete with its competition across the five venues, was incredible; and that the extensive security ensured safety everywhere – inclusive of Russian military boats just off-shore.
As soon as I mentioned America’s own naval presence, Alexi shared his frustration. “The United States does not trust us to hold a safe Olympics. How would America like it if Russia decided to bring its boats to a U.S. Olympics.”
I certainly agreed that the U.S action was an unusual and unnecessary one.
Before leaving the train, which finally arrived at the mountain transportation hub, we happily chatted about such lighter topics as hockey, pin trading, and food – less contentious indeed.
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