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Entries in Sochi 2014 Winter Ollympics (13)


Tom Kehoe, American Expert On Food Distribution, Visits


Tom Kehoe of K & B Seafood and Seaflight Logistics with Nanouly Bigvava (center) owner of the Mandarin Cafe in Sochi


Tom Kehoe, the Chief Executive Officer of K & B Seafood and Partner at Seaflight Logistics, both of New York, visited Sochi with a group of foreign executives, including an official of a French seafood firm, and several from one of Russia's leading seafood distribution firms.  Mr. Kehoe has enjoyed a long career in the seafood distribution business. His business was built in New York City, one of the most competitive and innovative business environments in the world, and it has grown to shipping products to every time zone in the world.

Mr. Kehoe got involved in the seafood distribution business in the United States in the 1970's, when he began shipping Maine lobsters to New York.  Mr. Kehoe and his firm have been successful in New York, despite the logistical difficulties of distributing expensive and highly perishable food items in a large and congested city to an exacting and sophisticated clientele.  With Mr. Kehoe founding K & B Seafood, his business grew to other seafood products and K&B took on the role of supplying Alaskan seafood to the New York market and eventually supplying seafood nationwide.   Among their specialities, K & B feature crab, scallops and other shellfish, including more than 50 varieties of oysters. In recent years, he and K & B have expanded internationally and now their products are distributed in Russia and to many of the nation's finest restaurants.  

The understanding of the complicated processes of moving perishable cargo from remote locations through customs and to multiple destinations through congested traffic led him to found Seaflight Logistics in 2009.  The company is a freight forwarder and specializes in the global logistics of perishables.

Mr. Kehoe's interests and career is not limited to food distribution, he also serves as a Trustee of the Village Board of Northport, New York, a bucolic and affluent town on Long Island.  He is Commissioner of Commerce, where he works with the business community and also Commissioner of Sanitation, where he is responsible for the policy and budgets of the waste water treatment facility.  Mr. Kehoe is a member of the world-famous New York Athletic Club, founded in 1866, and known as "the world's greatest athletic club'.  The NYAC has sponsored hundreds of prominent athletes, who have cumulatively won hundreds of medals at Olympic competitions, including 7 gold medals  (13 overall- more than most nations!) alone at the Beijing Summer Games and who have won scores of national championships in boxing, wrestling, track and field, rowing, fencing and other sports.  Mr. Kehoe's participation does not end at the sideline though. He was a competitive swimmer, is a surfer and holds two 3rd Degree Black Belts. Two of his daughters were elite fencers and one is now the coach at the NYAC, where one of his sons is a heavyweight boxer.

Mr. Kehoe's background gives him an understanding of the challenges faced in moving people and products. He knows how to work effectively with city, state and federal officials and he has a strong background in sports.  All of this drew him to Sochi, where we talked about some of the challenges that Sochi will face as the Winter Games approach.  First, he expressed delight at the verdant beauty of Sochi, saying that when he got off the airplane, he did "not expect to see palm trees in Russia!"  and then spoke about the scale of construction here.  I asked him what his approach would be in moving people and perishables during the Games.  He told me he is "am acutely aware of what congestion does to perishables, schedules and the movement and safe passage of our most precious commodity, people" and that his firm  "has staff entirely devoted to these issues"  He went on to say that working with the administration here in Sochi will be crucial to make sure that planning is complete.  He said that an understanding of the needs of local business will be required to satisfy the visitors' expectations.  We talked at length about challenges he has faced and novel solutions that Seaflight has developed in multi jurisdictional shipping and distribution.  

Since Mr. Kehoe returned to New York, we have spoken by telephone and he has expressed interest in the potential in Sochi, even suggesting to an institutional investor to travel to Sochi to investigate the possibilities of hotel development.  He sees what I do:  a city on the cusp of developing into an international and year-around destination.


On Top Of The World

Saturday, December 10, I spent the afternoon with Geir Olsen, General Director of Norwegian Snow Consulting.  He is directing the construction of the alpine events at Rosa Khutor, which will host those events during the 2014 Winter Olympics.  Geir showed me the mountain and talked about his long involvement with mountain sports, the Olympics and the last three years that he has spent building Rosa Khutor.


Geir Olsen- Rosa Khutor

We met at the base of the mountain and rode a series of 3 gondolas up to the top.  When we started up, there was no hint at how big and how far back it extended.  But as we rose quickly, I could see why this site had been chosen for the Olympics. The mountain is big.  Geir explained that the base is about 500 meters in attitude, but the top of the mountain is just over 2,200 meters.  He said that with the change in elevation, when snow conditions are not ideal at lower elevations, the top is often covered with powder.  I asked about snow and what would happen if the weather did not cooperate.  Geir told me that an extensive snow-making system is being put in place and the entire mountain will be covered with snow, regardless. As we talked about the mountain, I noticed the new Doppelmayr gondolas we were riding.  He told me that they were indeed of the Austrian manufacturer and that a lift will be installed that will transport 4,500 spectators per hour to view the events in 2014.  This will be the biggest system in the world.  This was not the only top ranking that Rosa Khutor will have.   The finish area for the alpine events will be the most compact in the history of the Olympic Games, as 30 gold medals will be won within 500 meters of each other.  Geir is still planning the locations of more lifts to be installed and showed me a map of the mountain and how he views its completion.  He told me that eventually it will have about half the skiable terrain that Blackcomb has in Canada, which, together with Whistler, is the largest ski area in North America.


He also told me about avalanche preparation and safety preparedness at Rosa Khutor.  From my point of view, nothing is being left to chance, either by Geir Olsen or Sochi 2014.

Everything that I saw on the mountain was top notch.  Several times I was by myself and personnel were ready at hand to ask me if I needed anything, despite the fact that the mountain is not yet open for the season.  Geir's mid-mountain office had a spectacular setting, with views of the wild Caucasus Mountains from every floor and window.  Geir told me that Sochi2014 has spared no effort to make sure that he has the resources he needs to complete his task.   He pointed out the fleet of Prinoth snow grooming machines and mentioned that Rosa Khutor had completed the largest order ever of the sleekly designed and environmentally-friendly machines.  

I asked Geir about the challenges he faces as he goes about his work.  He laughed and said the biggest one is that he has been so busy he has not had sufficient tine to work on learning Russian.  But he said that he is surrounded with English speakers and that the Russian team assembled is hard-working and competent, so communication has not been an issue.  He mentioned his respect for the group and that he really enjoys his work, saying " you can not buy a day like today."

Geir has been skiing since he could walk and is accomplished at both downhill and cross country skiing.  During his youth, he was a competitive skier.  He loves to ski and showed me a run at the top he likes that only the most expert would even attempt.  However, the demands of Rosa Khutor keep him too busy to do much skiing now.  Typically his day starts early and he continues until late, usually about 9 p.m.  With World Cup Ski Racing coming to Rosa Khutor in February and the Olyimpics two years later, there is a lot to be done.  But it is clear that Geir Olsen and the mountain will be ready for the challenges.


Office Rental in Sochi

Several outside organizations have been inquiring about office space for rent in Sochi.  I viewed an office on the 4th floor of a building on Kurortniy Prospekt, across the street from the Moskva Hotel (to be rebuilt with the Marriott flag).  This office was 60 square meters and was available at a price of 1,500 rubles per square meter per month.  This contrasted with prices from 800- 1,000 rubles per square meter per month on Vinogradnaya and Gagarina Streets.  Another office was rented in another centrally located hotel for 1,800 rubles per square meter per month.  

A very attractive office consisting of two floors and 1,350 square meters is for rent at 822 rubles per square meter.  The price is more reasonable, but the space is quite large compared to most offices.  The office is in the same complex as Aleksandr's Lighthouse and below the Lighthouse Restaurant.  The location is very good and the office has excellent view of the Black Sea.


 View from office



Sochi Builds Hotels


Rendition of the Hyatt Regency in Sochi

Today, I looked at hotels in central Sochi.  The new Hyatt Regency is being built in the vacant lot between the Park Hotel and the Primorskaya Hotel.  The site is great, with a park-like walkway about 50 meters between it and the bluff and then just below the boardwalk.  The Hyatt is quickly coming out of the ground and next door the Primorskaya is beginning renovations.


Statue of A.C, Pushkin and the construction site of the new Hyatt Regency, Sochi

The adjacent Park Hotel has been the preferred spot for business travelers because of its quality and location. Just across the street from the Park sits the new Bounty Boutique Hotel.  


 Park Hotel, Sochi

The Primorskaya has a great location and a beautiful facade.  However, the aged Soviet-era rooms are currently very substandard.  It will be interesting to see the result.  Despite the room quality, Primorskaya has had one of the friendliest and most helpful of the hotel staffs in the city.  Of course, the Grand Rodina has the most professional staff in south Russia.



Rendition of the remodelled Primorskaya with the hotel in the background, Sochi

The Park has 447 rooms  and the Bounty Boutique Hotel 27 rooms.   When the 350 room Primorskaya has been remodelled and the Hyatt Regency (200 rooms) has been built, Sochi will have 4 quality hotels with over 1,000 rooms within 2 blocks in the very center of the city.  This is only a small part of the total, with thousands more rooms being constructed in the city center, at Adler (Olympic Village) and Krasnaya Polyana (alpine events).


Russian Wedding 

Last week, I attended a wedding in Sochi.  Russian weddings last two or even three days.  The first day the bride and groom had a civil ceremony at ZAGS and afterwards had their photos taken at the nearby fountain and several other places around the city.

Later on, they made their appearance at the restaurant where the reception was held.  When they arrived, Pavel and Alexandra were presented with a tradtional loaf of bread to symbolize health, prosperity and long life. Russian weddings usually include a master of ceremonies who guides the evening through toasts, speeches, dances and games.  There is a copious amount of liquor (mostly vodka in this case) and food served.


Presentation of tradtional loaf of bread


Dancing and drinking game


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