The IOC announced yesterday that it had selected Sochi in the Russian Federation to host the Winter Olympics in 2014. You can read their press release here.
I have been to Sochi, just before the summer tourist season opened in 2001. I have a hard time believing that, even with 7 years head start and $12 billion that President Vladimir Putin has pledged to the project, Sochi will be remembered fondly by Olympians or guests. That comes simply from my experience with Russian project management and building practices. I expect the athletes to be sleeping in Potemkin Villages.
But here’s my speculation, and you heard it here first: the 2014 Olympics will be the impetus for Russia to reform its restrictive and ancient visa regime. I believe the international spotlight being shone on the country will bring Russia to scrap its Soviet-era invitation requirement and streamline application and registration processes. Heck, the Duma might even vote to bring back forms with English AND Russian instructions. Crazy, I know. I’m probably just an optimist.
Does anyone know of the long-term effects hosting the Olympics has for host cities or regions? Are there any examples — good or bad — of dramatic cultural or economic changes resulting from the investment and attention? Is China doing anything to loosen its visa restrictions for the 2008 summer games?
And just for fun: do you prefer the summer or winter games? And what’s your favorite event?