Photo Courtesy of Lewis Johnson
“For the 8th time in my career, I’ve witnessed the power of the Olympic spirit, not just on the field, but in the ability to unite people from across the globe. We come together, work together and find our common ground as humans, despite our language, culture, religion, etc. The fear, concern and safety of visiting Russia was replaced over the past couple weeks with smiles from thousands of volunteers, including one man I met when I first arrived, who said to me in broken English, “This is the new Russia and I hope you enjoy your visit. We are open to the world and we welcome you.” I felt that and I will be back to Russia. You should come see for yourself.
Cosmopolitan is a word that fits what I experienced here in the mountains above Sochi, Russia. I stayed in Krasnaya Polanya and it’s only a 5-minute walk away from Gorky Gorod Mall with more than 10 restaurants and bars. The mall is not only home to several brand name stores, but there is also an indoor beach on top floor with sands imported all the way from Dubai! You have to see the wave pool, water park and volleyball courts. It’s simply amazing!
Red Fox Restaurant (Photo Courtesy of Lewis Johnson)
If someone dropped you off in the village of Rosa Khutor — in the Mountain Cluster of the Sochi Olympics — you get the feeling like you’re in western Europe. Everything is brand new. All of the village’s hotels, restaurants and nightlife were created for the 2014 Winter Olympics. The charm of this luxurious mountain ski village is amazing especially the panoramic views from a ski lift. You’ll love it!
So far, here are my 3 favorite spots to have a meal and a beverage, and chill with a nice mix of locals and fans of the Olympics.
Lewis Johnson with the US Women’s Bobsled Team: (l-r) Elana Meyers, Lauryn Williams, Aja Evans, Jazmine Fenlator and Lolo Jones (center). (Photo Courtesy of Lewis Johnson)
Traveling must be in your blood to cover the Olympics. Since I was a kid growing up in Austin, TX, I remember seeing the koala — which is not a bear — on the Qantas Airlines commercials on TV. I would think, “I wanna go there one day!” Well, after the disappointment of not making an Olympic team as an 800-meter runner, my Olympic dream did come true in 2000 as an NBC broadcaster. My childhood dream became a reality when I made that trek around the world to Sydney as a Track & Field Analyst for the network’s coverage of the Games down under. Fast forward to 2014, and I’ve just arrived in Sochi, Russia, for my 8th Olympic assignment as the bobsled, luge and skeleton reporter.
You can feel the tension with the increase of security as these Sochi Games begin. Most of us veteran broadcasters and globe trotters will stay alert, but carry on as usual to experience another memorable Winter Olympics, which will be more than covering our events and going to the hotel. I’m going to hang out with people who want to embrace Sochi’s culture, including the food, wine and nightlife. It will be my way of exploring the host city and Russia. That’s what I’ll be writing about for the next few weeks.
The Seattle Seahawks, Punxsutawney Phil and more came out to play in this week in photos. While the Seahawks dominated the big game, all eyes are on the Olympic Games thanks to some bad press. Let’s hope things look up for Sochi after today’s opening ceremony.
Journalists were the first to arrive — and describe some hilarious and gross hotel experiences. WashPost rounded up their tweets, our personal favorite being from @StaceyStClair about the shoddy plumbing, “Also on the bright side: I just washed my face with Evian, like I’m a Kardashian or something.”
Possibly the most documented of all the @SochiProblems has been it’s interesting bathrooms, which are both lacking privacy and displaying confusing rules. Does that sign say don’t go fishing in the toilet? Your guess is as good as ours, Buzzfeed.
More alarming, Dateline reports that Sochi visitors face an internet minefield, often being hacked within minutes. Furthermore, the US State Department has told Americans coming to Sochi that they should have no expectation of privacy, even in their hotel rooms.
On a lighter note, CNN has 9 ways Sochi Surprises — including dacha, chacha and a gay bar. While you’re at it, check out our list of Sochi’s surprising sights.
Last but not least, today’s Google Doodle is garnering attention for its support of LGBT olympians, pointing to a section of the Olympic Charter that defends all athletes. The CSMonitor has more.
More Olympics Coverage:
Sochi 2014 Trip Planner
Where to Stay in Sochi
The Olympics: A Look Ahead
With 10 days to go until the Sochi Winter Olympics, we’re reminded that the Olympics represent an undisputed symbol of peak athleticism, entertainment and global cooperation. Also undisputed, however, is that the Olympics are consistently mired in controversy. The level of controversy varies from game to game. It can involve anything from performance-enhancing drugs and corrupt judges to political boycotts and most terrifyingly, assassinations.
The Sochi Winter Olympics are no exception to either end of the spectrum. There have been stories of self-sacrifice and excruciating decisions (Lindsey Vonn’s injury, for one) and ultimately triumph. There have been reports of heightened security and terrorism alerts, of wasted funds and a corrupt political environment.
It would be irresponsible to ignore the controversial political climate of the Sochi Games as it involves the world’s safety. However we must remain hopeful and optimistic that these 16 days will inspire the world.
In the spirit of the Olympic Games, here are some fun and hopefully inspirational facts:
Ralph Lauren once again designed the USA Olympic team uniforms. All of the uniforms were made exclusively in the USA, specifically in Oregon (yarn), Pennsylvania (spinning), North Carolina (material prep) and Los Angeles (assembly line).
We all know that the fourth-place finisher does not get a medal, but he/she does not go home empty-handed. The first eight athletes in each event receive a diploma from the IOC (International Olympics Committee).
Photo Courtesy of Getty Images
Beating out Istanbul and Madrid, Tokyo has been tapped by the International Olympic Committee to be the host city for the 2020 Summer Olympics. The race was really between the Istanbul and Tokyo — Madrid had been eliminated in a first-round ballot. The final tally wasn’t even close; Tokyo easily won by 24 votes.
In case you didn’t know, the last time Tokyo was host city for the Summer Olympics was in 1964. The city has now gained the unique distinction of becoming the first Asian city to host the games twice. City officials are already taking proactive steps to revitalize the city’s waterfront, where the Olympic Village will be situated, but there are several reasons why Tokyo is already a great tourist destination. We love the Japanese and Tokyo’s amazing attractions, including Mori Arts Centre, Ueno Park, Tokyo National Museum, Tsukiji Fish Market and Imperial Palace East Gardens.
But let’s not forget Brazil. With the 2020 Summer Olympics still a ways off, many sports fans are focused on Brazil as the hot destination for the next few years. Not only will Rio de Janeiro host the 2016 Summer Olympics, but it will also be one of 12 cities to host soccer matches for the FIFA World Cup 2014. If you’re a soccer fan, don’t delay! FIFA is already accepting applications for World Cup tickets. Score big and make plans to visit Brazil’s World Cup cities.
Photo Courtesy of Embratur/Brazilian Tourism Board
The wait is over for soccer fans! Tickets to the FIFA World Cup 2014 are now on sale. Fans will be able to request tickets based on a random selection draw, from Aug. 20 through Oct. 10, and on a first-come, first-served basis from Nov. 5 through Nov. 28.
Fans are currently able to buy tickets based on the date and the venue of the match, or to follow their favorite team. Twelve cities in Brazil will host the best international soccer teams as they battle it out to become the FIFA World Cup 2014 champions. Host cities will include Fortaleza, Salvador, Manaus, Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre.
In addition to hosting the World Cup matches, Rio de Janeiro will also host the 2016 Summer Olympics, making it a hot tourist destination over the next few years.
For now, it’s all about the World Cup. For more information on tickets and pricing, visit the FIFA website and or download the official guide to tickets.
Take a tour of the 12 Brazilian cities that will host the soccer matches for the FIFA World Cup 2014. See our slideshow and explore each city’s amazing culture and tourist attractions.
Most seasoned travelers have probably heard of (and dreamt about) the amazing train ride through the Tijuca Rainforest to see the 125-foot Christ the Redeemer statue high atop Corcovado Mountain. And who hasn’t heard the gossip about the Brazilians’ buff beach bodies and the droves of scantily-clad women who sunbathe on the world-famous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches.
Well now, you can get your chance to see Rio de Janeiro – free of charge! Enter to win a trip for 2 to the Marvelous City and see why it’s such a hot vacation destination. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that tourists are flocking to the tropical city not only for its beaches, but also because it will host both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
See Rio for yourself! Explore this Brazilian city and its secret treasures like Leblon, Rio’s most affluent neighborhood with a beautiful beach that’s known for being much quieter than Ipanema or Copacabana. See Rio from above and go hang-gliding off Sugarloaf Mountain, or just lay low and spend the day on Paqueta Island, where it’s not uncommon to see a horse-drawn carriage.
There’s something for everyone in this Brazilian city, so take the first step and enter to win a free trip — your next adventure awaits you in Rio de Janeiro!
By Mommy Points
With the 2014 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony set for February 7, 2014, the Games in Sochi, Russia, are now officially less than a year away. If you want to be at the Opening Ceremony, or one of the other 15 types of winter events that will take place during the 2014 Games, then mark this Monday, February 11, 2013, in bold letters on your calendar.
The public sale for remaining individual event tickets begins promptly at noon eastern on Monday. This will be a first come, first serve sale, so in order to have the best shot at getting what you are after, don’t be late getting online on Monday. Event tickets start at $22 USD and go up into the hundreds of dollars for more popular events like ice skating and men’s hockey finals. If you are interested in a ticket + hotel package deal, some of those are already available now.
The official website to purchase Olympic tickets and packages depends on your country of residence, but those residing in countries such as the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Australia must use CoSport.com. If you plan to participate in the ticket sale, I recommend registering for an account with CoSport now to avoid any potential delays on Monday. Also, keep in mind that only Visa cards are accepted for official Olympic ticket sales.
And get a glimpse of future Games in our The Olympics: A Look Ahead slideshow!
Summer Hull is the founder of MommyPoints.com, a site dedicated to helping a community of readers discover how to travel the world at a greatly reduced cost, primarily by taking advantage of current travel promotions and maximizing travel rewards programs.
It was a big year. The Olympics took over London, and James Bond returned to the box office for the 23rd time. We took a tour of the Twilight destinations and even learned where Gangnam is. 2012 is definitely a year to remember, so let us jog your memory before we jump into 2013 … READ MORE