Everything You Need to Know About Sochi, Russia

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It's been seven years since Sochi was chosen as the site to host the 2014 Olympic Games, and the Russian city's moment on the world stage has finally arrived.

As the globe's elite winter athletes get settled in Sochi, here's everything you need to know about the city by the Black Sea.

How Do You Pronounce Sochi?

Let's get the basics out of the way. The city's name is pronounced So-chee. Not So-chai. Not Saatchi, like Nigella Lawson's husband. Listen to the Merriam-Webster pronunciation here.

PHOTO: Sochi and the surrounding Caucasus mountain range and Russian regions of Chechnya and Dagestan.
Reuters
Where Is Sochi?

Sochi is located 5,178 miles east of New York and 995 miles south of Moscow.

The subtropical resort town is situated along the Black Sea and boasts pebble beaches and palm trees, making it a playground for Russian jet-setters.

While it may be a nice place to visit, Sochi has some volatile neighbors.

An alert issued by the U.S. State Department ahead of the games noted a recent string of suicide bombings in Volgograd, Russia, a transportation hub to the northeast of Sochi. It also cited the region's decade-plus-long struggle against Islamic terrorism, which has included bombings at airports, hotels, entertainment venues and markets, among others.

Sun-Soaked Images from Sochi, Russia
Mikhail Mordasov/AFP/Getty Images
Here's Why Sochi Is Known As the 'Russian Riviera'

It may be the site of the winter Olympics, but Sochi is actually a popular summer resort town with some incredible Black Sea beaches.

The subtropical temperatures make Sochi a hotspot for tourists who want to soak up the sun.

Vladimir Putin called the town a "unique place" when it was being considered by the International Olympic Committee as a potential spot for the 2014 Games.

"On the seashore you can enjoy a fine spring day, but up in the mountains it's winter," Putin said, according to the Sochi Project.

Check out photos of what Sochi is like in the summer here.

Sochi's Infrastructure Has Been Revamped for the Games

Billions of dollars have been poured into Sochi ahead of its big moment on the world stage. According to the Official Sochi 2014 guide, that includes:

  • More than 200 miles of roads and bridges and more than 125 miles of railway tracks.
  • At least 690,000 jobs were created or maintained due to Olympic projects.
  • PHOTO: Joseph stalins former dacha, built in the 1930s on the grounds of the Zelenaya Roscha sanatorium in the Krasnodar region near Sochi, Russia, seen Jan. 2, 2013.
    Sovfoto/UIG/Getty Images
    Even Joseph Stalin Had a Home in Sochi

    The former Soviet dictator had a luxury villa in Sochi where he was said to retreat for breaks during World War II.

    Among the things tourists can expect to see in Stalin's home are an eerily life-like wax figure of the dictator, the bullet proof couch where he liked to watch movies and a weighted cue he used to shoot billiards.

    There's also a must-see mosaic of another dictator, Vladimir Lenin, located in the center of town.

    For the Traveler

    The easiest way to get to Sochi is to fly into Moscow or St. Petersburg and then hop on one of the multiple daily flights to Sochi.

    Expect jet lag if you're coming from the U.S. Sochi is nine hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time and a full half-day ahead of people on the West Coast of the United States.

    It's recommended travelers have Russian rubles on hand to use during the games. In case you're wondering the exchange rate, US$1 is equal to about 35 rubles.

    PHOTO: General view of the Sochinka river in downtown Sochi, Feb. 10, 2012 in Sochi, Russia.
    Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images
    Sochi's Mayor Claims There Are No Gay People in Town

    There's been anti-gay sentiment brewing in Russia and now, ahead of the games, Sochi's mayor has claimed there are no gay people in his city.

    "It's not accepted here in the Caucasus where we live. We do not have them in our city," Anatoly Pakhomov told BBC Panorama in an interview.

    Read more here.

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