Imagine Sochi, Russia, as Glenwood Springs and Rosa Khutor, this year’s Olympic resort, as Aspen. Between the two is a winding drive like the one that leads to Telluride.
That’s how Aspenite Kutcher Miller describes it. For the past year, he has made four trips to Sochi as he helps in the production of all TV broadcasts for snowboarding, ski jumping and the Nordic combined. Miller, a director and producer for K2 Creative Productions who worked at the Vancouver games in 2010, said Rosa Khutor is not European in style, it’s not Canadian and it’s not American. It’s something all in its own, with oak, maple and hickory tree species, English ivy riding the trees underneath the gondola and, above that, a glacier.
“It’s an interesting topography,” Miller said from a mountain pub surrounded by singing locals.
During his four trips, Miller has stayed in three-star apartments and five-star hotels. He said there’s some truth to the news reports about living conditions in Sochi, but he hasn’t experienced any of it personally.
“I’ll be very honest in saying there are places that aren’t ready, but my accommodations are extremely nice,” he said. “I don’t necessarily think that other people are making things up. Could there be some embellishment within the media? I wouldn’t doubt that.”
Sitting with fellow Aspenite Mike Nakagawa, aka DJ Naka G, Miller said the Russians at the mountainside pub had just opened three bottles of champagne for the opening ceremony, and they joined in the singing.
As a whole, Miller, who grew up in Memphis, Tenn., said the culture is a “little guarded.” Many of the Ukrainians and Russians he has worked with have parents and grandparents who lived through the Cold War.
“They want to be a part of something big that we might take for granted in America,” he said. “Some of my crew are in their 20s to 30s, and they want to do a good job, and they want to impress the world, and they are very intent on doing so.”
Getting on buses and trains and into venues, Miller said, is always preceded by a security checkpoint, and though security guards are stern, “They are not singling anybody out.” He hasn’t felt any danger from terror threats, either.
“I’m most certainly cautious. I try to pay attention,” he said, adding that his car goes through a security screening every day. “It’s not as though I feel oppressed in doing so. I feel as though these people are doing their job.”
When Miller is driving, he said he waves at people. Even though they aren’t as friendly as the people he grew up with in the South, it’s no different from the experiences he’s had while on business in Brazil and Europe. He said he is happy and honored to be in Sochi.
“I think it’s a breakthrough, culturally, for this country,” he said. “And I hope that it can help not only the country overcome some of the areas where they are behind the times, but I also hope it can allow the rest of the world to see through some of the guises and misnomers that people might have about this country.”
He said a year ago, he was one of those people who had a skewed image of Russia. After four trips, he’s realized it’s a “pretty neat place.”