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Winter Olympics: A Cab Driver’s View of Sochi

The Caucasus Mountains loom in the distance from Sochi, Russia, host of the Winter Olympics. (Photo: BSU at the Games)

By Holly Demaree | BSU at the Games

Walking the streets of Adler after midnight during a light rain, it’s not easy to maneuver.

But taxi drivers are readily available in the Sochi, Russia, suburb. The drivers tend to park their cars in groups on the roadside, where they lean against vehicles to chat and smoke.

The price of a taxi ride is determined by one’s haggling skills. If more than one car is needed, then a debate on prices ensues with two drivers.

Holly Demaree/BSU at the Games
The drive from Adler to Sochi’s Black Sea port to the docked cruise ship MS Louis Olympia was short, but not recommended at night. Three hundred rubles ($8.54 U.S.) seemed to be the going price.

The taxi driver’s name was Vladimir. He declined to give his last name, and was hesitant to talk about things because he said he would give the whole truth about some of the Russian cultural norms he doesn’t agree with, and he then might regret it.

Vladimir’s deal

Vladimir is an Armenian born in Abkhazia, a Russia-aligned region bordering the Black Sea that the nation of Georgia lays claim to.

The Olympic rings hang outside the main train station in Sochi, Russia, which is hosting the Winter Olympics. (Photo: Getty Images)
Having lived in Sochi since 1997, he has seen Sochi being cleaned up, restructured and built up — about $50 billion worth by reported estimates — in order to host the Sochi Winter Olympics, which opened Feb. 7 and run through Feb. 23.

“The streets are cleaned every morning, but the cars are still dirty,” he said in his Russian-accented English. “And you can tell because the cars have dirt on them and continue to stay dusty. 

“This is unlike other cities abroad. There not effort here to keep the city clean by the citizens as it is abroad.”

As the taxi drove over a bridge, Vladimir pointed out how the main street was freshly cleaned, but that the side street was still dirty and unfinished.

“Here, if someone smokes in the car, they will throw the butt out the window or drop the trash on the ground,” he said. “But not in other countries, where an effort is made to keep the streets clean.”

‘If he can do it, then so I can’

His view of Russian society’s mentality is straightforward: “If he can do it, then so I can.”

A mosaic of Russian icon Vladimir Lenin in Sochi, Russia. (Photo: Harry Engels/Getty Images)
Vladimir continued the thought: “So, if a driver sees someone littering, they will do the same because it is a society decision. It has been made normal action, and not many go by personal opinion of what they believe is right or wrong. They do what the others do regardless of their personal opinion.”

For emphasis, he imitated a driver in front of him by weaving in and out of traffic, avoiding hitting cars by inches.

“Look, I’m already doing something wrong,” he said.

Vladimir believes tourism from the Winter Olympics is good both physically and culturally for Sochi, a Soviet-era resort destination.

“It has brought innovations to our city like the roads. The roads used to be small, but now they are paved, wider and safer,” he said. “We also have more tourists, which is our main treasure. If there weren’t any tourists, this city would just be dead.”

97.9 WGRD , Channel 95.7 and Classic Hits 98.7 WFGR are partnering with BSU at the Games to bring you full Winter Olympics coverage! Follow BSU at the Games on Twitter and Facebook.

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