To mark 60 years of twinning with the city of Sochi in Russia, three members of Cheltenham Twinning Association were invited to visit the Black Sea resort in November to strengthen relationships between the two “sister cities”.
Whilst in Sochi, the group attended the 4th Sochi International Film Festival Awards and the closing ceremony and considered plans for Cheltenham to host the 2021 UK event. They then attended the Sochi International Tourism Forum were they promoted our Festival Town to the Russian tourism market.
The group also visited the Olympic Park, location for “Professional Football Club Sochi” to discuss opportunities for sporting links and also participated in Sochi Day, an annual event held to mark the anniversary of the founding of the city.
The group were well looked after by their colleagues at Sochi City Administration and the busy programme enabled them to see much of the twin city. They experienced a classical concert, Georgian food, watched a live ice hockey match in the Olympic Park, attended a formal meal with traditional Russian dancing and singing and were warmly welcomed wherever they went.
One of the delegation, Martin Kimber, had visited Sochi before. He went twice in the 1990s when setting up youth exchanges and he noticed many changes. Martin commented,” The beautiful scenery on the Black Sea coast with the mountains behind and its warm climate, attracts many tourists. As a result of the massive investment for the Winter Olympics in 2014 which led to vastly improved infrastructure, including large numbers of new quality hotels and excellent transport links, Sochi now offers visitors a unique and enjoyable experience and is now a truly international resort. What hasn`t changed though is the friendly and hospitable welcome offered by the Russian people.”
On their return the group comprising, Richard Gibson, Martin Kimber and Dominique Leonard presented the gifts they had been given to the Chairman of Twinning in the Mayor’s Parlour.
The Cheltenham Twinning Association are hopeful that good relations have been re-established with Sochi and that following on from discussions held during the visit, school and football exchanges will be progressed and that there will be an opportunity to showcase Cheltenham to a delegation from Sochi in the near future.