Actual Sochi Paralympic budget

Armenian team at the Opening Ceremonies.

Armenian team at the Opening Ceremonies.

Before going to Sochi, I tried to budget and discussed this more in depth than people probably cared to know.  Budgeting is very important when you’re doing citizen journalism and you want to possibly get money to support your efforts.

Transportation involved two trips on the Russian metro at 40 rubles each, airport express train at 640 rubles, and a round trip train ticket from Moscow to Sochi at AU$125.  I got zapped with 116 RUBs for the train twice for sheets. Plane tickets were bought using frequent flier miles.  Retail price is showing me US$331. Do some converting: €0.78 + €12.59 + €81.12  + €4.564 + €238.06 = €337.11.  Not bad. About €100 if you subtract the plane ticket part out.

Hotel expense was €33 a night for five nights.  That equals €165.  Food was… That’s a bit harder to calculate.  I took with me €200 that I converted to rubles with no commission at €1 to 40 RUB.  la la la la.  Let’s go with €160 on for food and postage, with about €25 of that at the airport on the last day, including a breakfast that was 760 RuB / €14.87 from Burger King that included lots of stuff I did not want including a disgusting breakfast roll thing with a tomato in it.  Sbarros for lunch was much cheaper at 220 RUB / €4.328 which included two slices of pizza and a very large drink. Two bottles of Pepsi each ran 70 RUB / €1.377.

IMG_5223I screwed up and converted USD to RUB and did not convert it before I left Russia.  Ooops.  Add US$75.

All told, assuming actual cost of airline tickets, going to Sochi cost me €551.05 / US$766.18.  That isn’t that much.  Going to the London Paralympics, the cost was around AUD$7,500.  Costs were lower because I did not fly to Sochi, because I did not attend the whole games, because I missed meals, because I bought fewer souvenirs.   (It was AUD$15,000 for two people. This included everything from airfare to food to internet.)

What did this get me? Page views for all 2014 Winter Paralympics articles from 1 March to 14 March 2014 on English Wikinews total 14,685 views.  To be fair, I produced only 10 articles while in Sochi.

In London, myself and my fellow report produced around 50 to 60 total articles. That’s a huge volume.  My reporting partners in Sochi were Ukrainians, who were primarily writing in Ukrainian and doing their own work.  It wasn’t so much a partnership of working together to support each other’s English Wikinews reporting.  The page views for London original reporting around the Paralympic period total 78,943 views.  That’s about 5 times as many views.  The costs for London were 17 times higher: €9734.25 / €551.05 = 17.  I think reporting wise, I got my money’s worth here.

I think, when I do a better metric analysis, some of the breakdowns will be interesting.  Where this reporting project fell down was background research and background writing for English Wikipedia… but I think the Ukrainian project will demonstrate why that matters and how useful that particular aspect can be.  I know that they had zero articles about the Paralympics before 1 March 2014 on Ukrainian Wikipedia.  They now have 53 pages with 23,803 total views from 1 March to 14 March, the fifth most visited Wikipedia for articles about the 2014 Winter Paralympics found in that category.  But that’s another analysis to look at Return of Investment for another time.



The politics of the Sochi Paralympics

I should be reporting on this for Wikinews, but I am not.  At the present, despite the military situation in the Ukraine with what appears to be an effective Russian invasion? incursion? foreign power putting a military force into to protest its ethnic people who make up 60% of the local population… the trains between the Ukraine and Russia appear to be operating normally.  This includes in the Crimea and along other parts of the border.

Over in Canada, the Government has ordered their Ambassador to Russia to leave Moscow because of the ongoing situation.  On a Paralympic note, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has announced he and members of his Cabinet do not plan to attend the Sochi Paralympic Games because of the Ukrainian situation.

The United States Government has advised its citizens to avoid the Ukraine (especially the Crimea region), and the USMNT has moved a game scheduled for today to Cyrpus (where a referee was recently beaten).  No extra alerts for Americans going to Russia though. I’m not feeling particularly unsafe about going, but I am a bit queasy given everything.  Russia is not LGBT friendly.  The USA doesn’t have a particularly good relationship with Russia at the moment, and Russia culturally has always been held up as one of the great threats to the United States.  I grew up in the dying throws of the Soviet era, but I can remember the picture painted of Russia, and it wasn’t pleasant.

That said, on a Paralympic level, I have information on tickets to the opening ceremony.  I have registered to attend the IPC Hall of Fame induction ceremony.  I’ve watched a ton of Team USA Paralympic videos. I’ve read more on the rules of the various sports and the classification process.  I feel ready and knowledgeable, and like I should be able to do some good reporting.

Getting to Sochi: Implementing the plan to get there

I have tickets to get to Moscow, and from there I plan to take the train from Moscow to Sochi.  This is supposed to be a beautiful train ride, doesn’t involve scary domestic flights and gives me more time to see what is supposed to be a beautiful country.

I’ve heard of some problems involving journalists and their experiences with Sochi at the Olympics.  My first hiccup with booking? The Russian railway ate my ticket order, charged my account for the ticket that they have no record of, and when I sent them an e-mail per “In the event of a dispute about debiting funds when paying for e-tickets, passengers should send an email to, keep a copy of this correspondence, and contact the bank which issued their card.“, the response I got back was in Russian requesting that I put the request to them in Russian.

Whut?  Seriously, not fun.  I used Google Translate to send them the message I sent them in English in Russian.  Waiting to hear back.  This does not feel like a good start.

Update: Apparently, the way the system works is this.  You go through the ticket process as round trip.  When it comes time to payment, they first bill you for the first part where they give you the total for the WHOLE trip.  After you pay for the way there, you then go through a second transaction to pay for the RETURN which also says the cost is for the whole trip.  The assumption is everyone buying a round trip ticket knows this is a two step payment process, so there is no warning about it when you get to the second payment screen that if you cancel, you kill the whole round trip ticket. ( Book: Moscow to Sochi, Sochi to Moscow.  Ordering: Whole trip: €120.  Pay €120.  First payment is actually €60 and only for Moscow to Sochi.  Then despite second booking, new screen saying pay €120 for Moscow to Sochi, Sochi to Moscow but actually paying €60 for Sochi to Moscow. )

This e-mail is all taking place in Russian with my use of Google Translate.  Their responses are all attached in Word documents written in Russian.

Ukrainian civil unrest and Sochi reporting

Burning barricade in front of the main entrance of the internal military forces in Lviv on street. Stryyska . The night of the 18 February. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported. Photograoher: Aeou.

Since September, I have been preparing to go to the Sochi Paralympic Games with a Wikimedia crew composed of Ukrainians. I met one of them at the Wikimedia Central European Conference.  My personal experiences with the chapter have been pretty good, and I cannot say enough nice things about the person in their chapter coordinating things.

Last week, media accreditation for Sochi arrived and I needed to send it to Kiev for my Ukrainian Wikinews/Wikimedia counterparts.  Because the Games are so soon, I paid a lot extra to get them delivered quickly. €48 to get them delivered by today at the latest.  The Spanish postal worker who handled the mailing at the counter cautioned that they might be slightly delayed because of the civil unrest but should not ultimately interfere with their delivery because these things rarely impact mail delivery.  (And given Spanish history, I was very willing to take his word about this.)

Guess which post office got seized by protesters today?  Yep.  That would be Kiev.  I’ve looked at my tracking number for my delivery all day. It didn’t get delivered. 😦  I’m hoping that my mail did not need to go through that post office.

I’ve got tremendous sympathy for my Ukrainian acquaintances and friends in Wikimedia Ukraine.  The country is becoming more politically unstable, and the people involved are managing to deal with their obligations in the movement, manage to get to work, and some are volunteering to help in other areas of their society in response to the civil unrest.  The situation is sad, especially given the deaths that have taken place.  I hope my friends and acquaintance stay safe.

To learn more about the situation, February 2014 Euromaidan riots (English) and Протистояння в Україні з 18 лютого 2014 (Ukrainian).