Grigory Pasko: Eye on Sochi, Part IV

[Also see Part I, Part II, and Part III of this series] sochi1119.jpgPart IV: Special Operation «Olympiad» By Grigory Pasko, journalist Fools and roads, again An obligatory feature of every Russian city is – fools and roads. There just seems to be no way to avoid them. The roads in Sochi are lousy. Of course they’re not as bad as in Samara, for example, but still… They say that in Stalin’s time, the best Soviet architects worked on Sochi’s urban design. If this is true, then I can’t understand: why didn’t they take the road infrastructure into consideration? Essentially, there’s only one road going through the entire city – Kurortny prospekt [Resort Avenue]. And the traffic on it is one perpetual traffic jam. Especially in those places where it is bisected by other roads, like near the hotel «Moskva» or beside the railroad station.

probka1127.jpgPerpetual traffic jam on Sochi’s Kurortny prospekt (photo by Grigory Pasko)Since my hired driver and I visited pretty much all the environs of Sochi, I can say that lousy roads were observed in Adler, Khost, in the vicinity of Maly Akhun, the Imereti Valley, Kudepsta… (Just to be fair, I will note that the road to Krasnaya Polyana did turn out to be more or less normal).And if there are bad roads, then we ought to seek out those who conduct competitions under the motto “We will strike a blow with a road race against roadlessness!”. This instead of striking a blow with something else (for example, a fervent call to carry out his work honestly or with a vote against such a power) on the fat face of a rusty bureaucrat. The Russian person has no stomach for this, though. But we’re always prepared to drive in god only knows what quality vehicles along god only knows what quality roads. Russians courageously overcome all hardships that fall on their lot, they manifest heroism in those places where either they themselves have screwed something up or, more often, where their beloved power has screwed something up.So it was that this time too, just as I had once in Petushki, I became the witness of a holiday. Going on during the course of three days in Sochi was the final, fifth (!), stage of the Russian trophy-raid (“off-road”, to put it in simpler terms) championship «Wilds of Sochi-2007». The name, as you may have guessed, very accurately characterizes the state of the roads in this region.debri-1127.jpgOne of the participants in the «Wilds of Sochi» auto race (photo by Grigory Pasko)It is noteworthy that one of the organizers of the event (which was already being laughed at by the Soviet writers Ilf and Petrov in 1931’s The Golden Calf) became the committee for affairs of youth of the administration of the city of Sochi.All that’s left to add to this is that the length of the route of the competitions on the first day comprised 60 kilometers, and on the second – 10. One thing you need to understand is that you couldn’t drive farther in the local wilds even if you wanted to. Oh, and another thing: taking part in the roadless competitions are inhabitants of other cities of Russia as well – Moscow, Krasnodar, Novorossiysk, Gelendzhip… I’m sure things aren’t all fine and dandy with the roads there, either.But there is some good news, too. Minister of transport of the RF Igor Levitin has reported that 6 parking lots will be built between Lazaervsky and Adler, each with an area of from 10 to 15 hectares. On top of that, Kurortny prospekt, which takes practically all transport upon itself, is going to get a little help – a bypass road around downtown Sochi. Hoping to win the $2.1 bln contract are the Austrian firm Strabag, 30% of which belongs to Deripaska’s «Basic Element», and «Transstroy», for the purchase of which that same ubiquitous Deripaska is in the process of conducting negotiations.obezd-1127.jpgConstruction of Sochi’s bypass road has already begun (photo by Grigory Pasko)A representative of one of the companies specializing in road construction says that the winner of the tender (read: Deripaska) will be able to earn 10% from the overall cost of the project, or $120 mln. Another participant in the market is even more optimistic – his estimate is 20% and $340 mln.Statistics confirm that in the summertime, 17 thousand automobiles ply through Sochi on a daily basis. 70% of them are out-of-town transport. Therefore, a thoroughly Soviet thought is currently being discussed in the halls of power: to prohibit entry into the city, all the more so during the period of the conducting of the Olympiad, to all non-local autos.To that I can add my own personal suggestion: for the period of preparation for the Olympiad and in the days it is being held in Sochi and its environs martial law should be declared, and after 10 PM – a curfew. One step right or left will be regarded as an attempted escape.

“Our governor’s a big patriot, and he was always irritated by the saying about roads and fools in Russia. And so he decided to disprove it personally.“How’s that?”“He got his administration together and they drove off to the Oblast psychiatric hospital – for an inspection and at the same time to make some inquiries about the mental health of the citizenry.”“Shrewd thinking. So what happened, did they make their inquiries?”“No, it didn’t work out: it started to rain a little, the road turned to mud and the whole motorcade got stuck.”“Oh dear, what a mess. And what happened then?”“Then? It got even worse: they decided to go on foot – and got lost…”