Bailey offers an early glimpse of Sochi

The U.S. biathlon teams have arrived in Sochi, Russia, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, for a World Cup event that starts on Thursday.

Saranac Lake’s Annelies Cook, Paul Smith’s Tim Burke and Lake Placid’s Lowell Bailey are among the athletes who will be competing.

The trio is staying in Krasnaya Polyana in the Caucasus Mountains, outside the city of Sochi. For the Sochi Olympics, there will be two clusters of Olympic venues that are about 30 miles apart, according to the Sochi Olympics website. Krasnaya Polyana will be host to the outdoor mountain events, such as biathlon, bobsled, skeleton, luge and the skiing competitions.

Bailey posted his first impressions of Sochi and the venues on his website,

“I awoke to brilliant blue skies outside this morning on the mountaintop in Sochi, Russia,” Bailey wrote in a post with today’s date. “Yesterday was cloudy and foggy, so today was the first time I was able to see what else is out there. It is one of the most beautiful vistas I’ve seen, with mountains surrounding the entire mountaintop village where we are living. When you look closer though, within the confines of the Biathlon and Cross-Country Venues, the Sochi Organizing Committee has a TON of work left to do! The chalet’s which will house some (but not all) of the cross-country and biathlon athletes are fairly complete, but the rest of the structures – additional housing, dining facilities, roads, walkways, etc. – are largely unfinished. The trek to the venue consists of navigating on and around a bunch of semi-finished paths and buildings. But the actual stadium and venue are just about finished.”

Bailey also describes the tracks as brutal with a climbs of 300 meters right out of the stadium and another 600-meter climb later on. He describes the second climb as “The longest sustained climb I’ve witnessed on a modern biathlon course.”

Still, later on, he does say he’s excited to race on the new venue and they have a done a great job with the tracks and venue preparations.

He is critical of the stadium size, though.

“The stadium itself is by far, the biggest, most expansive stadium I’ve ever seen,” Bailey wrote. “The timing and press building is about ten stories high. I’m not sure what they plan on doing with all that space, especially considering that they are planning to cap the spectators at a total of 5,000! This is perhaps the most disappointing part about the Sochi venue.

“They built one of the most expensive venues in the world, destroyed a huge swath of untouched mountaintop, and they’re only going to bring 5,000 spectators up to see it? If that’s the case, this will be one of the smallest crowds assembled for a biathlon World Cup-calibre event. Kind of strange when you think about how big biathlon is as a sport in Russia.”