Mike Ridewood – Sochi


Mike Riddle of Sherwood Park, Alberta, competes in ski halfpipe at an FIS freestyle World Cup and Sochi Olympics test event in Rhosa Khutor, Russia, on February 16. 2013. The required piece of gear for halfpipe photographers is crampons. Steep, smooth and very slippery. (Photo – Mike Ridewood/COC)

Sochi is a very different Olympic location. Salt Lake City 2002 had Park City, Torino 2006 had Sestriere, and Vancouver 2010 had Whistler. But Sochi started from nothing.

I spent this past February in Sochi, Russia, shooting Olympic test events for the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC). I stayed in Rhosa Khutor in the mountain cluster of venues which includes all the snow events, the sliding centre, and the ski jump venue.


Cedric Rochon of Saint Sauveur, Quebec, pounds through the snow during moguls training for an FIS freestyle World Cup and Sochi Olympics test event in Rhosa Khutor, Russia, on February 14, 2013. The appearance is of fluffy snow spraying out behind Cedric, but this was heavy soft snow. If February 2014 has similar temperatures as this, it could be a lot like Cypress Mountain at the Vancouver Games. It was impressive that they got all the events at Cypress completed with so little snow. (Photo – Mike Ridewood/COC)


Kaillie Humphreys (front) of Calgary, Alberta, and Chelsea Valois of Zenon Park, Saskatchewan, race to a third-place finish in women’s bobsleigh competition at an FIBT bobsleigh and skeleton World Cup and Sochi Olympics test event in Rhosa Khutor, Russia, on February 15, 2013. When the race was over, I found I didn’t have the right number on my pass to get into the finish area for the Canadians being presented with the overall season trophy. Sometimes pretending you don’t understand can work. (Photo – Mike Ridewood/COC)

Located on the Black Sea, Sochi is a summer resort that came to prominence under Joseph Stalin. The principalities that compromise Greater Sochi stretch 145 km along the Black Sea coast. The coastal cluster of venues is in Adler, close to the airport. The city of Sochi is a 45-minute drive north. A very slow 45-minute drive.



Russian performers in Rhosa Khutor, Russia, on February 14, 2013. In the mountain cluster, I stayed in a new area of five hotels and a lot of empty store fronts. The mountain area was about an hour drive from the coastal cluster depending on the amount of construction traffic. When the new high speed train is running, it should be 30 minutes. I had several Russians tell me that it was less expensive for them to ski in Austria than to come to Sochi. (Photo – Mike Ridewood/COC)


Bobsleigh athletes stretch in the early morning at Rhosa Khutor, Russia, on February 11, 2013. My hotel was host to much of the bobsleigh world cup for two weeks. The food was pretty bland and overcooked, but the hotel excelled at making a lot of food. Most of the substantial bobsleigh athletes each filled two plates at the buffet. Why go back for seconds? (Photo – Mike Ridewood/COC)

The one thing that will really make these Olympics quite different is that everything is new. Winter Games hosts always have to build some venues, but not a huge ski area with all the infrastructure, plus accommodations, plus a new highway, plus a high-speed train.



The coastal cluster of Olympic venues in Sochi, Russia, on February 4, 2013. In the background, left to right: Fisht Olympic Stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies, Iceberg Skating Palace which will host figure skating and short track speed skating, and the Bolshoy Ice Dome which is the main hockey arena. I believe the building under construction in the foreground is a hotel. (Photo – Mike Ridewood/COC)

I did a venue tour on the coast and while the venues look great there was still a lot of work to be done on the Main Press Centre, Broadcast Centre and the surrounding accommodation. The Russian government appears to have the ability to make it happen. A recent news story quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin telling the 95,000 workers in Sochi that their holiday would not come this Christmas but rather when the Paralympics are over in March 2014.



Construction at Rhosa Khutor, Russia, on February 5, 2013. The background is accommodations and the large structure in the middle is the station for the high speed train from Sochi. The road at the bottom of the picture goes up to the sliding centre, then to the mountain cluster Olympic Village and the last stop is the extreme park hosting the freestyle ski and snowboard events. (Photo – Mike Ridewood/COC)

I’m hopeful that flights from Frankfurt to Sochi will be added during the Olympics. For my trip earlier this year, it was about a 30-hour trip: Calgary – Frankfurt – Istanbul – Sochi. The Turkish Airlines flight left Istanbul around midnight and arrived in Sochi about 3:30am. By the time I was looking at the ultra serious Russian immigration fellow, I was so tired that I had to laugh. I don’t think he appreciated it.

As always, the Winter Games are going to be interesting.



My first visit to the Olympic countdown clock in Sochi, Russia, on February 4, 2013. I had photographed some volunteers taking pictures of each other around the clock and they insisted on taking my picture. Three days later, I travelled back to the countdown clock for the “year out” ceremonies and the temperature was 18°C !




Mike Ridewood is a Calgary-based editorial and corporate photographer with over 30 years experience. Mike has (so far) photographed nine summer and winter Olympics, three Pan Am Games, one Commonwealth Games, two Canada Games, seven Stanley Cups, and over 19 years of NHL hockey for Reuters, The Canadian Press and Getty Images.

In addition to sports, Mike also shoots news, politics, public relations and advertising for a diverse range of clients.




Category: Member's Blog

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