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Winter Olympics: Not Taking Home a Medal? How About a Souvenir?

Backpacks are available for purchase at the Winter Olympics shop at the Olympic Park in Sochi, Russia. (Photo: Taylor Irby/BSU at the Games)

By Jeremy Ervin | BSU at the Games

Sochi Winter Olympics gear is the hot item no matter where you go in Sochi, Russia.

Every train station, sidewalk and stairway is full of people sporting red, white and blue Russia hats and jackets and knit IOC mittens in Olympic-ring colors.

A central source for most of the merchandise is in Visa’s souvenir shop in the Olympic Park. Naturally, the only card accepted within its walls is Visa.

“As long as everyone knows ahead of time, that’s alright,” said 23-year-old student Jason Paul Williams from Manchester, England, as he waited in line. “If you don’t have a card, it could be a problem, but sponsorships are how these things happen. Visa paid for this.”

Fans wearing USA hats watch the Winter Olympics last week at USA House in the Olympic Village in Sochi, Russia. (Photo: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for USOC)

Like just about every other food court, ticket office or security checkpoint in Sochi, there’s a queue to access the shop. Store personnel control the flow of customers into the store to reduce the congestion. At times, volunteers block off sections of the store so they can be cleaned and restocked.

Arnella Bochorov, 24, picked up some tracksuit-type jackets, nesting dolls and t-shirts from the shop. The Sacramento, Calif., native made multiple trips to the store, waiting in line between 30 to 60 minutes.

“All the Americans have really liked the outfits volunteers work in,” she said. “It was well worth the wait.”

As might be expected, souvenir stores dot Sochi, with outlets including the entrance to Olympic Park and in train stations.

To get into the store at USA House in the Olympic Park, however, you’ll need a U.S. passport.

Two major designers, Ralph Lauren and Nike, dominate its retail offerings. The official Team USA Polo Ralph Lauren cardigan commands nearly $800. For a light, puffy, down-filled Team USA jacket, buyers need $400 plus tax to take it home.

Those with a little less cash might prefer the Nike Team USA light jackets. Made in Vietnam, they’ll set buyers back $185.

Besides merchandise, Budweiser beer is also available in USA House, a rare commodity on this side of the world.

Some travelers seem to prefer fewer official souvenirs, like airline employee Betty Anderson, 49, and her friends visiting the country. They had traveled to other Olympic Games cities and noted some differences in shopping for souvenirs.

Beijing “was commercialism to the max,” she said. “I don’t see that here.

“London had very few souvenir places. … You couldn’t get anything.”

Some traditional Russian souvenirs, matryoshka dolls, are available in a souvenir store at Rosa Khutor Mountain Cluster village in Sochi, Russia. (Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

A large sporting-goods store in Sochi proper hosts the full repertoire of souvenirs, including hockey pucks, clothing and stuffed animals, but also sells commemorative sporting goods. Sochi 2014 skis, ski poles, snowboards, helmets, boots, shoes and more are only available at this location. Some smaller items, like magnets and key chains, are marked as “made in China.”

Representatives at the store said they noticed few Americans or other foreigners, with the exception of Canadians.

Other gift shops across the region also sell commercial merchandise. Customers looking for better deals can find them. A small stuffed animal that would cost more than 700 rubles ($19.73) in Olympic Park can be scooped up elsewhere for 465 rubles ($13.11).

Here’s a sampling of souvenir items and costs:

  • Samsonite Sochi 2014 luggage, $791.25.
  • Sochi 2014 coffee mug, $4.50.
  • Small stuffed animal, $21,
  • Sochi 2014 knit hat, $43.16.
  • Sochi 2014 bed sheets, $106.46.
  • Knit gloves, $14.39.
  • Russian nesting dolls, $8.92.
  • Sochi 2014 ornament, $23.00.
  • Rubber Sochi 2014 bracelet, $7.19.
  • Souvenir keychain, $10.93.
  • Souvenir magnet, $11.51.
  • Sochi 2014 ice skates, $57.39.
  • Bosco Russia jacket, children’s, $226.00; adult $255.53.
  • Bosco Team Russia Olympic jacket, $358.89.

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