Cultural learnings from the Olympic Winter Games
A week on from the end of the Winter Olympics, Raj Koria, reflects on his time in Sochi.
In the days since my return from Sochi, a lot of people have asked what it was like being an Englishman in Russia.
At first I thought I was gaining a genuine cultural experience of the country. I soon realised however that most of my experiences in Sochi were not typical of a visitor in Russia but were in fact a product of working at an Olympics Games. The area in which the Olympic Park and my hotel were located was a large, mostly brand new, controlled zone well away from the centre of Sochi. General access to it without a ticket or accreditation was not easy. During my three weeks there I only left this area on the few occasions I ventured into the centre of Sochi. Consequently almost everyone I met was in this artificial bubble and was either working at or attending the Games. It was therefore difficult at times to determine which of my experiences were typical of Russia and which were a product of being at the Games.
For example, I got the impression that ‘starters' was merely a word that appears at the top of the first page of the menu in Russian restaurants. If you order something from that page you may get it first, you may get it after your main, you may get it after your dessert or you may not get it at all. Actually that applied to anything you asked for, not just the starter. Ordering in a restaurant in Russia seemed to be a non-lethal version of Russian roulette. However I discovered that this phenomenon was peculiar to the Olympic venues and as soon as I ventured further afield service standards were high and comparable to back home. This was because all the restaurants in the Olympics venues and my accommodation had only opened shortly before the Games and all the staff were new. Also, on my second day there, a waiter mentioned to a Russian-speaking colleague that they had not yet been paid. Although that may have been rectified soon after, it might further explain the level of service throughout our stay.
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Raj Koria is an experienced and charismatic international sports business lawyer and adviser. Raj's experience includes media and television rights, sponsorship sales and servicing, product merchandising and retail distribution and on-site marketing operations. He is London based but services an international client base at Halebury, the alternative law firm.