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After Sochi Olympics the place became a ghost town

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Posted at 6:06 PM, Oct 13, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-13 18:06:13-04

Although Russia held its first Formula-One Grand Prix in Sochi on Sunday, the city that hosted the winter Olympics earlier this year is struggling.

Many businesses that sprang up before the most expensive games in history have now failed.

With the athletes long gone, Sochi has turned from the home of gold medal winning glories, to a ghost town.

Many of the hotels at Gorky Gorod in the mountains weren’t ready in time for the games – and still haven’t opened. That’s over 1,000 hotel rooms lying waiting for one of the shortest ski seasons in Europe.

And while those businesses have not even gotten off the ground, there are many that have already gone bust.

“After the Olympic games there were no people at all,” said Kalina Konyov, former restaurant owner. “So we decided to close.”

Kalina Konyov turned his cafe into a restaurant in Krasnaya Polyana, hoping to cash in on the Olympic spirit.

But just a month after the flame went out – the money ran out. He closed his doors in April.

“I think that many of them feel cheated,” Konyov said when asked about how others feel about the Sochi situation.

“Yes there are many people in this situation,” he added.

It’s a sad tale for the town at one end of the world’s most expensive railroad. The once hourly trains from the mountains now run just a handful a day.

But at the other end, about 31 miles away on the coast, one chain with five hotels in Sochi has taken advantage.

“The number of visitors have really over our expectations, so we’re very happy with the season,” said Brian Gleeson, Manager, Radisson Paradise. “There’s been fantastic interest from domestic Russia post games.”

On the coast it’s difficult to find people who will speak critically of the Olympics. Instead of the pre-games stories of human rights abuses, overspending, corruption and unsettled locals there’s an overwhelming sense of national pride.

“The people who were unhappy with the Olympics, I don’t think those people were very smart because it’s an honor for any city for any country to have the Olympic games, it’s a real honor,” said Sergey Eksuzyan, restaurant owner.

There’s plenty of reason for those on the coast to be positive.But the question now is whether the mountain region can emulate the success.

The Olympics sold itself as a game of contrast. The challenge is to ensure its legacy won’t follow suit.