SOCHI, Russia - Russia faced a lot of criticism going into Sochi Olympics. The most expensive Games in history have been under fire for construction snafus, the handling of stray animals, unfinished accommodations and bad snow.
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Certainly not every Russian is a fan. But you wouldn't know that walking around the Olympic Park. Spectators 9NEWS talked to couldn't be more proud and hopeful the games will show a capable, beautiful country.
Olympics are an opportunity to get to know another nation, to get a glimpse into their customs and passions. For people in Russia, it's an opportunity to change the way the world sees them. At least, that's what some are hoping for.
"During the times of the Soviet Union many thought we had bears walking the streets. We are past that now," said Alyeona Kechkina. "We are on par with the world."
With all of the issues leading up to and during the games, the Russians in the Olympic Park are still excited about the event.
"When you enter this square, it takes your breath away," said Ludmila Zelinskaya
Zelinskaya came from the far eastern part of Russia to Sochi. It took her two days to get here on trains and planes.
"We are proud. I think every single one of us feels it," she said. "When you watch competitions, you feel no not one person is sitting [there.] Everyone is united behind Russia and with Russia."
"People are screaming 'Sochi, Sochi, Russia Russia,'" said Mikhail Limarenko from the city of Orel, near Moscow. "[I] have goosebumps from hearing that."
"I feel this sense of patriotism. I'm so happy to be here to feel me as a part of this event," said Natalya Panyukova.
They hope the games will shape the country's future
"I'm proud of our country's new ambitions, our country's future, the possibility of reaching new heights," Vladimir Panyukov said.
The Russians are hoping the Olympics will help them make new friends and if not that, maybe just an understanding "they" are just like "us."
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