When David Ficklin flies to Sochi, Russia, this week for the 2014 Winter Olympics, he will hope for a window seat. A few minutes before his plane is scheduled to land, its route will provide the passengers with an overhead view of Sochi Olympic Park.
In other words, Ficklin’s creation.
Nearly a decade ago, Ficklin served as director of the venue development team for Sochi’s bid for the Olympics. He made eight trips to Russia in 2005 and 2006 while designing plans for every venue.
Ficklin has since taken over as vice president of development for Sporting Club, the parent company of Sporting Kansas City, meaning this week’s trip will offer his first glimpse of the completed project that sits near the Black Sea in Sochi.
“I’m going to look down and get goosebumps,” Ficklin said. “I can’t wait to see it because in the pictures I’ve seen, it looks so similar to what we designed and planned. They actually built it. It’s going to be an amazing moment.”
And one he readily admits he didn’t see coming.
Ficklin took his first trip to Sochi in August 2005 — two years before the city was awarded the games — and quickly noticed something unique about the venues.
There weren’t any.
“Halfway through the day, I sort of looked at everyone in terror, realizing they didn’t have a single thing built,” Ficklin said. “How can you secure an Olympic bid with nothing built?”
It was a burdensome project, but also somewhat of a designer’s dream. The site offered a blank canvas with endless possibilities.
Once Sochi secured the bid in July 2007, Ficklin’s team of 20 planners became responsible for designing venues for every event. Beyond that, the venues needed resources built for water, sewage and power — not to mention transportation for the athletes and fans.
Ficklin attended the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, hoping to find a few pointers.
“I spent a grueling amount of time familiarizing myself with the requirements,” Ficklin said. “I basically went to back to school.”
He studied the courses for events like the biathlon and ski jumping.
To find the location for ski jumping — which Ficklin considers his favorite Olympics competition — he and a team of designers drove a jeep into the mountains until the road came to a dead end. From there, they hiked by foot until they found the proper slope for the launching and landing points.
“As we’re climbing up the side of the mountain, trying to find that right place, all sorts of things start going through your mind,” Ficklin said. “Most specifically, ‘How do we get a road up here?’ ”
Those kinds of questions are what added to the cost of this month’s games.
A report in Business Week estimates the total bill for Russia was $51 billion — a number that includes several regional developments, as well — which easily makes it the most expensive Olympics ever. The previous mark was $40 billion, set by China for the 2008 Summer Olympics, according to the report.
Ficklin will make the trip to Sochi with his family and plans to stay 10 days. His first stop? The opening ceremonies on Friday.
“I truly believe the opening ceremony is one of the greatest events in the world,” Ficklin said. “All these countries come together for peace and respect. It’s so important for me to have my kids see that event.”
Ficklin, of course, will be watching through a different lens.
“It’s going to be chilling,” Ficklin said. “Creating a bid is about weaving a compelling story and getting people to buy into that story. When you see that come true, it’s humbling and kind of magical, too.”