Palm trees and borscht? Sochi a different world than Vancouver

Associated Press

The 2014 Sochi Olympics are just a year away. And they're a world away from the last Games in Vancouver. Here's a look at five things you'll find in Sochi, Russia, that you probably wouldn't have seen in Vancouver:

1. Palm trees

The towering trees that conjure images of Hollywood or Hawaii line the streets of Sochi, making it seem an unlikely site for the Winter Olympics. But the climate of the city known affectionately as the Black Sea Pearl is subtropical, with about 200 sunny days a year.

2. Borscht

While Ukraine is usually cited as its place of origin, the hearty soup is a staple in Russian homes, and has become as much a symbol of the country as vodka. Only healthier. There's an old saying that the spoon must stand in good borscht, the Russian version of which is made mainly from beets or tomatoes.

3. Russian folk dancing

Think sore knees. Russians are famous for their Cossack dance, with its familiar move that has dancers squatting low with arms folded and kicking out their legs. The dance that originated in Ukraine was a popular pastime of soldiers, who danced as a show of strength.

4. Unlicensed "taxis"

Seems almost everybody is willing to give someone a ride in Russia — for a price. Stick out your hand on the street and a car will quickly pull up. It's just as likely to be a random Russian resident out to make a few rubles as a licensed taxi driver.

5. $50 billion pricetag

The Sochi Games will cost over 25 times more than the Vancouver Games. Why? Sochi has built the Olympics from the ground up, constructing 11 sparkling new venues. Vancouver organizers refurbished several existing facilities, with the Richmond Oval and Whistler Sliding Centre being among the few new ones.

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