SOCHI, Russia–If the 1996 Atlanta Olympics represented the crass extreme of commercialism, Sochi represents the opposite, a testament to Russia’s nascent instinct for marketing.
Examples abound, such as the Alpine-themed walkways of Krasnaya Polyana that are lined with shops still under construction. Even if fast-tracked, the papered-over storefronts might be able to fling open their doors by the Feb. 23 Closing Ceremonies.
But the biggest example of a missed business opportunity can be found in Sochi’s Olympic Park, where the souvenir pins that are by far the most popular item of Winter and Summer Games alike have been impossible to find. And the puzzling lack of pins was the topic of media queries at the International Olympic Committee’s morning briefing for two days running this week, posed with the same gravitas as queries about drug-testing and security measures.
According to an Associated Press report, 1 million pins commemorating the Sochi Olympics have been manufactured, but those intended for the mega-stores at Olympic Park were idling in a warehouse for the first few days of the Games. Some reached smaller souvenir shops in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, which is a 45-minute train-ride from the hub of the competition. Others reportedly could be found in Sochi airport shops.
Aleksandra Kosterina, spokesperson of the Sochi Games, told journalists that the pins should find their way to shelves of the Olympic Park’s super-stores soon.