Walking the streets of Adler after midnight during a light rain, it’s not easy to maneuver, but taxi drivers are readily available. The drivers tend to park their cars in groups on the side of the road, where they lean against a few cars to chat and smoke.
The price of a taxi is determined by your haggling skills. If more than one car is needed, then a debate on prices ensues with two drivers.
The drive from Adler to the Louis Olympia cruise ship was short but seemed too long to walk at such a late hour, so this reporter struck a deal at 300 rubles or $8.63 per car after about five minutes of haggling through a translator.
Vladimir, the taxi driver who would not give his last name, was first hesitant to agree to an interview because he said he would give the whole truth about some of the Russian cultural norms he doesn’t agree with, and he then might regret it.
He was born in Abkhazia, a region in Russia bordering the Black Sea, and he is Armenian. Vladimir has lived in Sochi since 1997.
He witnessed the whole process of Sochi being built and restructured to be able to hold the Games. Vladimir noticed, as the Olympic Games began to approach, that the cleanup efforts began in earnest.
“The streets are cleaned every morning, but the cars are still dirty, and you can tell because the cars have dirt on them and continue to stay dusty. This is unlike other cities abroad; there is not effort here to keep the city clean by the citizens as it is abroad,” Vladimir said.
As he drove over a bridge, he pointed out how the main street was freshly cleaned but the street off to the side was still dirty and unfinished.
“Here, if someone smokes in the car, they will throw the butt out the window or drop the trash on the ground, but not in other countries where an effort is made to keep the streets clean,” Vladimir said.
Vladimir described society’s mentality in Russia as “if he can do it, then so I can.”
“So if a driver sees someone littering, they will do the same because it is a society decision,” Vladimir said. “It has been made normal action, and not many go by personal opinion of what they believe is right or wrong. They do what the others do regardless of their personal opinion.”
For emphasis, he imitated a driver in front of him by weaving in and out of traffic, avoiding hitting cars by mere inches.
“Look, I’m already doing something wrong,” he said.
Vladimir believes tourism from the Olympic Games is good not only for the city physically but also culturally.
“It has brought innovations to our city like the roads. The roads used to be small, but now they are paved, wider and safer. We also have more tourists, which is our main treasure. If there weren’t any tourists, this city would just be dead,” he said.
BSU at the Games is a freelance news agency operated by 41 student journalists reporting from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games through an immersive-learning program at Ball State University.