It has been dubbed Russia's Las Vegas. A place where Vladimir Putin's government rolled the dice in a grand project to help the world rethink the way it does business.
More than $50 billion has been spent in reshaping Sochi for the Winter Olympics, in the process bringing traffic gridlock, a decline in tourism and environmental destruction.
If it's been tough for the locals, it has arguably been just as hard for the ex-pats who came to the Black Sea resort looking for a new life and are left wondering just what the legacy of this month's Games holds for them.
One British businessman, who came to Russia in 1996, believes a huge opportunity has been missed by the authorities.
"What the Russians don't understand is the price of what they have. The natural resources here, the forests, the rivers -- there's so much untouched nature here it's just incredible," says James Larkin.
"You can walk in the mountains for several days and you won't see any houses, any roads, there's no way to get there except for walking. There's not really many places in the world left for that. That is a huge tourist attraction in itself."
Larkin started a "banya" spa retreat in the Krasnaya Polyana mountain region above the coastal city, but has spent the last year working in Moscow due to the chaos brought about by Sochi's reconstruction.
"The last few years it's been pretty bad, they've been digging up the roads, lots of traffic jams. The locals, who are tourists who'd come from Sochi, they've stopped coming completely.
"The prices have shot up ... economically it's made the whole thing very difficult."
For American businessman Bruce Talley, however, the influx of the thousands of people needed to turn Sochi into an Olympic venue has been a massive boon.
Talley, who worked in investment banking before spotting opportunities for property investment in Russia, has found a niche helping Olympic officials, broadcasters and sponsors to navigate Russian bureaucracy.
"It's amazing. I lived in California for a long time and I watched the growth and development there, and of course southern California is a much bigger area ... In a concentrated region like this, I've never witnessed anything like the changes here," he told CNN.
"There have been a lot of people who have relocated here working for various bodies. We've done relocation for some of those companies, helping them find apartments all the way up to providing services, financial management and contracts."
In between these two perspectives lies Bastien Simonneau, who with his chef father runs a French seafood restaurant overlooking the harbor, a bakery and a catering business.
"I think after the Olympics it will be good because we will have good hotels, roads, a nice airport -- it will be very quick for people to come from Moscow to enjoy the snow," the 31-year-old told CNN.
"Right now, of course, you don't get tourists."
That was late last year, when Sochi's workforce was still battling towards its deadline of being ready for the February 7 opening ceremony.
Since then, security has been stepped up even further after several terrorist alerts, resulting in a clampdown on traffic into the city.
Sochi, which has a subtropical climate, has traditionally been the hub of the "Russian Riviera" -- a narrow 2 km belt of coast that stretches 145 km.
It's a popular summer retreat for Russians, but there is some doubt as to how many foreign tourists will make the long trip for the Olympics despite the much-improved air and rail links.
"Before we were thinking yes, but right now we don't know," Simonneau says.
"The authorities, their priority is terrorists, to control everybody, so I don't know if we are going to have a lot of foreigners. You need to have documents for everything. We have a lot of questions about how it will work, but they don't answer us."
But there is no doubting the tourism potential of the massively-revamped Krasnaya Polyana mountain cluster, which Simonneau recalls had just one ski lift ("I think they bought it secondhand from Yugoslavia") at the time of his first visit several months after Sochi was awarded the Games back in 2007.
"I really enjoyed the quality of snow but it took 40-45 minutes to get to the top of the mountain," he says. "They only had one road. There was nothing in Krasnaya, a small village and nothing much, only Russian tourists."
Now there are three high-end resorts, much to the delight of Russia's ski-loving president Vladimir Putin, who has taken a hands-on approach in ensuring his grand project goes to plan.