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Entries in Sochi 2014 Winter Games (3)


Sochi's First English Language Magazine, Sochi's first and only English language is now online.  The magazine features articles, hotel and restaurant reviews, a map of Sochi, photos and videos.  Also, the site has a social network for expats and others to join.  They can then offer reviews, comments and answer or ask questions and interact with the growing expat community in Sochi.

Please take a few moments, look at the site and join the community!


Radisson Blu Opens Near Olympic Park


The new 508 room Radisson Blu Resort and Congress Center in Adler (in Sochi and near the Olympic Park) is now open and accepting reservations and accommodating visitors to Sochi.   American Brian Thompson of Colorado walked through the doors on Monday, November 5 to be welcomed by General Manager Thomas Hagemann and the staff of the hotel as its first guest.

That day, I spent the afternoon and evening at the Radisson Blu as a guest of Mr. Hagemann, General Manager and District Director for the Rezidor Hotel Group.  It was not the first time that I had been to the hotel, though.  Mr. Hagemann showed it to me during the latter stages of construction in late July.  At that time, rooms were being finished, the restaurants were being furnished and equipped, and the pools and spa were not completed.  Filling staff positions had only begun.

Monday (November 5), when I arrived, Mr. Hagemann greeted me at reception, which was staffed by friendly, smiling, English-speaking personnel.  He showed me the spectacular sushi bar that will open shortly near the Radisson's spacious reception area.   We also looked at the other restaurants, the spa, fitness room, children's play area, both pools (one for adults and one for children) and retail areas, the huge conference center. Everywhere is the feeling of space and with the sophisticated colors and design the hotel exudes Scandinavian cool.  Since the hotel sits between the Olympic Park and Adler's new seaport, the views are spectacular, too. Thomas and I toured several guest rooms, including one of the 3 Presidential Suites, just as the sun set over the Black Sea.  The view was amazing from the balcony- the sea on one side and on the other the Olympic venues with the Caucasus Mountains as backdrop.  I have beenl around the Olympic Park many times and no building features a better vista.


All of the rooms evidence the Scandinavian design prominent in Radisson hotels.  They are modern, comfortable, quiet and calm. The temperature, door and window systems control the environment and when inside, there is no hint that the Radisson Blu is only an oasis in the middle of the world's biggest construction site. Rooms either have mountain or sea views, some with both and many have views of the Olympic Park, including the Bolshoi Ice Palace, just a short walk from the hotel.

Thomas and his wife, Claudia,  hosted Brian and I and another local hotelier and his wife at dinner in the hotel's main restaurant.  The Executive Chef is George Leivadiotis, whose heritage is Greek, but who hails from Belgium. I had the restaurant's very good Blu Burger with a fresh Greek Salad, along with Tarte Tatin for desert.  The restaurant has a good selection of foreign and local wines to complement the menu.  And Mr. Leivadiotis does a great job in mixing the local produce with imported food to allow a different set of choices than diners usually have in this region.  

Thomas told me a bit about his background, too.  He was raised near Bremen, Germany and after his education and military experience, he served an apprenticeship with Marriott.  Since then he has served as Chief Steward, Restaurant Manager, Banquet Manager, Food and Beverage Manager, Director of Operations and General Manager at hotels in Germany, Egypt and Dubai.  Eventually, he was called to Rezidor Hotel Group's main office to serve as Vice President of Future Openings for all brands in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. There he was involved in the openings of over 200 hotels in more than 20 countries. Mr. Hagemann chose to work in Sochi as the General Manager of the Radisson Blu and District Director for all the hotels that the Rezidor Group will open in the area. His experience and success brought several opportunities his way, but he chose the Radisson Blu in Adler because of the challenges and excitement in working in a beachside resort city that will host not only the 2014 Winter Games, but also Formula 1 Racing and World Cup football.

The conference center has space for 1,200 and looks set to become the preferred location for events in Adler/ Sochi. The size, modern design and functionality place it at the top in Sochi.  There are also two large conference rooms and smaller rooms for other events.  One of my favorite places in the hotel is the lobby bar.  It has several sitting areas and a balcony overlooking the Black Sea, just a few meters away.  I asked Thomas about training and service, since the staff seemed to be especially helpful and friendly.  He told me about the "Yes I Can" training that each employee undergoes and how they emphasize service in all areas of the hotel.  In a developing economy and city without long service traditions, this sets hotels, such as Thomas' apart.


Everything about the Radisson Blu suggests it will be a preferred destination for a long time. There are no hotels that are competitive in Adler at the moment (although other hotels are being constructed nearby) and the Radisson Blu's size and location means that it will immediately become the premier destination for business and sports-related travel to Sochi.  At this writing. there are no other hotels in the region that can compete with its location, range of dining options, size and room quality- especially so for those whose business takes them to the Olympic Park and Formula 1 location.




Andrei Ponamarenko 

I recently wrote an article about Larisa Alexnodrova that was published by the Ski Channel.  The article has been picked up by several other websites in the United States, including one devoted to surfing.

Yesterday, I noticed that is carrying the article with a Russian translation. However, for unknown reasons the poster had removed my name as the author. This is unusual.  Andrei Ponamanreko, the owner of an English language school, had posted the link to on Facebook.  So, I wrote to Andrei, politely telling him that it was fine to use my article, but to please ask the administrator of the site to credit me as the author.  He agreed.

This morning, I looked at the site again to see if I had been credited as the author. I saw this had not happened.  I also saw that the article had been altered.  The final line of my article had been changed.  The original version:


"If you want to catch up to Larisa, she can often be found at the Sochi Expats Club parties, telling us about her latest travels."

The new version:

"If you are interested in meeting with Larissa and talk in English about her recent travels, come to the English Club (www., st. Park 19, ie 239-44-49)."

Only when I read this did I realize that Andrei Ponamarenko had posted the article himself as advertising for his school.

I wrote to Mr Ponamarenko and explained to him that the article was the intellectual property of the Ski Channel and Bruce Talley and that he did not have permission to alter the article and use if for his commerical purposes.  I explained that the law is clear on this subject and that what he had done was intellectual piracy.  I asked him to change the aritcle to its original form or remove it.

A short time later, I was forwarded a link to a video about Mr. Ponamarenko's school.  A few weeks ago, i went to his school, which I have done occasionally over the last 7 months, to speak English and to talk about American culture.  When I got there, Mr. Ponamarenko said that they would lke to interview me for an advertisement.  I had little time to think about it or ask what the content would be. They interviewed me for a few minutes. Today, I saw the video clip.  The viewer is told that I am at the school constantly teaching students.  This is false. I have been there twice in the last 3 1/2 months.  I have never been paid and I am there not as a teacher (I am not a teacher, nor have I ever been).  

So, Mr. Ponamarenko is purpusefully using my image to mislead people.  I believe in truth in adversiing. Also, I have carefully built my image over a number of years.  I have appeared at the World Russia Forum in Washington D.C.  I have been interviewed by the Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Post, Delovaya Gazeta Yug and Real Business.  I have developed an English language tourist application for Sochi. I have a video channel on Sochi in English.  I write this blog and a private newsletter about Sochi that is read by many Olympic organization officials, media company executives and journalists the world over.  My information is positive, accurate and helpful for the many foreigners coming to Sochi.  For many westerners, I am Mr. Sochi.  

I hope readers will entreat Mr. Ponamarenko to desist.