Well I complete the first week of the Olympic Games today and have had a memorable experience!!! I have enjoyed several sports including luge, biathlon, and speed skating and am able to somewhat confidently navigate my way between venues and my accommodations and restaurants. Of course, prices for food and lodging are a bit more than normal because it’s the Olympics. A few hotels have literally been price gouging, but they are beyond my means anyway. Fortunately, there are more modest options like the hostel I am staying now. Nothing special, and not even a towel, but at least it’s a clean bed. I use the down comforter as a towel since I didn’t bring my own. My first hotel was brand new and conveniently located by the Olympic Park! Even the sod grass in the ground had just been planted, but the free wifi internet in my room has its days.
In this blog, I will focus some on a topic I have found very interesting here, particularly since Sochi will be hosting the Paralympic Games next month. It is handicapped accessibility I have noticed around town. Now, I cannot speak from firsthand experience, but in my opinion, Sochi seems to be the most handicapped accessible town in Russia. That being said, it’s nothing like Houston or western standards. There are an amazing number of ramps and automatic chair lifts that have just been installed with all the new buildings. It’s funny however that all these new ramps probably wouldn’t meet ADA standards. I have seen one long, one way ramp the length of about 20m. They don’t seem to switch back here the way our ramps do. Most ramps are short and steep. I suppose a wheel chair would gain high speed on one of them. I don’t recall western Europe, but Russia and Ukraine’s buildings tend to put little ledges in the doorways of outside doors, and even some indoor ones like bathrooms. I suppose it’s to keep water or something out (maybe the cold), but it would be frustrating in my mind to try and struggle my wheel chair through the multiple doorway ledges everywhere. I’m not sure a motorized wheel chair could have enough power to jump over them.
Public transportation has its own share of obstacles in trains and busses getting around town. Trains and busses are both equipped with handicapped accessibility. However, a disabled person would find it difficult boarding a modern electric train here when the coach floor isn’t even with the boarding dock. Also, the many new busses are all equipped with handicapped spaces onboard and seatbelt restraints. However, there don’t seem to be any hydraulic lifts to load a person in a wheelchair. The few times I have seen persons with wheelchairs using public transportation, usually 2 nice men help lift the person onboard, whether it’s a train or bus. They also help hold the chair in place from rolling around in transit when the customer can’t get their chair to the restraints. In the case of a crowded bus with so many people standing that one can barely fit in, The nice men willing to lift the wheelchair customer onboard will kindly ask them to wait for the next bus. Busses here stop at every stop no matter what the need. There are no cables or buttons used to ask the driver to stop because of that though buttons are present. I might also say that all public transportation in association with the Olympic venues are free to use for the duration of the games. The normal nominal fee is equal to about 40-60 cents. I’ve had an interesting experience with a friend in Nizhny Novgorod north of here and east of Moscow on the Volga River when I boarded a tightly packed bus during rush hour and could barely squeeze in with her. There was no way to hand our bus fare to the driver. In this case, Russians kindly pass the fare for you up to the bus driver and pass back your change if needed (drivers here don’t demand exact change). It seems we all are on the honor system. On a Mexican crowded bus, the fare would rarely reach the driver I have found.
In my next blog, I will talk more about security here and maybe some Olympic results.