Sochi Russia's favorite Black Sea beach resort has been largely unknown to foreigners
Sochi is a Russian city along the Black Sea coast and it will be hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics.
This city is the capital of what is known as the 'Russian Riviera'. With its palm trees and occasional banana trees, Sochi is not exactly what many people expect from the stereotypes of 'Russia'.
Sochi is almost unique among larger Russian cities as having some aspects of a subtropical resort. Apart from the scenic Caucasus Mountains, pebbly and sand beaches, the city attracts vacation-goers with its subtropical vegetation, numerous parks, monuments, and extravagant Stalinist architecture. About two million people visit Greater Sochi each summer, when the city is home to the annual film festival "Kinotavr" and a getaway for Russia's elite.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 2,957 square kilometres (731,000 acres) Caucasian Biosphere Reserve, lies just north from the city.Sochi also has Europe's most northerly tea plantations. It is served by the Adler-Sochi International Airport. The Sochi Light Metro is under construction, projected to be complete by 2014.
Sochi is also known for its sport facilities: a local tennis school spawned the careers of such notable players as Grand Slam champions Maria Sharapova and Yevgeny Kafelnikov (Kafelnikov spent much of his childhood here, while Sharapova relocated to Florida at the age of 7). In late 2005, the Russian Football Union announced that it was planning to establish a year-round training centre for the country's national teams in Sochi. The city's warm climate was cited as one of the main incentives.