The snow-covered mountains tower above the sub-tropical beach, a stunning vista by any standards -- but what sets Sochi apart from other seaside resorts is its sheer scale of concrete and steel.
It's a grand project that Vladimir Putin hopes will transform an ailing region of Russia and make a bold statement of intent, using sport as the fulcrum -- much in the way that China did with its Olympics in 2008 and Qatar hopes to do with soccer's World Cup in 2020.
At a reported $50 billion and rising, Russia's first Winter Olympics will be the most expensive in history -- topping the eye-watering $40 billion Beijing Summer Games.
"I've heard it's the world's largest construction site right now, and I can see that," says U.S. Olympic Committee official Patrick Sandusky.
One of the six new stadiums will be used solely for the opening and closing ceremonies.
"This is quite a national project, not a regional one," says Sandusky, who was part of a U.S. delegation to Sochi last November.
"You can sense that this is very much on the happening agenda for President Putin and the federal government beyond just the organizing committee and the regional area of Sochi. This is a big project for Russia."
With a year to go before the 2014 Winter Games, much of the Black Sea city is still a mass of scaffolding.
"The noise of construction is everywhere," reports CNN's Phil Black from Sochi, which he describes as "a rundown Soviet-era resort town crippled by terrible traffic."
Costs have spiraled since Russia was awarded the Games in 2007, and the stakes are high as the Kremlin makes an ambitious flexing of financial muscle that will also include hosting soccer's World Cup in 2018.
"Part of the investment that Russia has made is not only what the world will see in Russia, but also they're building a winter paradise that they hope to showcase through the Olympic broadcast and attract tourism in the future," says 2010 Vancouver champion Bill Demong, who competed at a Nordic combined skiing test event in Sochi last weekend.
"They have not only connected to Sochi to the mountains by rail, but also Sochi to the rest of Western Europe."
Vladimir Putin's spokesman admitted the enormity of the task ahead.
"It's a huge challenge, especially for President Putin because he uses this Olympics as a good opportunity for boosting the economy and developing this region of Sochi," Dmitry Peskov told CNN.
It is opening up a resort city where temperatures reach 40C in summer, and will be as warm as 10-15C by the sea when the Olympics take place from February 7-23 next year -- with organizers already stockpiling snow due to sporadic falls, Black says.
Much of the expense is due to the lack of existing infrastructure at the resort, which is an hour and a half's flight south-west of Moscow near the border with Georgia and the disputed territory of Abkhazia.
Unlike the last Winter Games in Vancouver, which was integrated within the city, Sochi has had to start from scratch -- new roads, rail, hotels, as well as an improved power grid.
"I was impressed with the scale of the project and what they are doing there," says Sandusky.
"Uniquely it's a summer resort town in Russia traditionally, not a winter destination, although they have had skiing there a while. The juxtaposition of the Black Sea with the mountains behind is quite stunning in its beauty."
The Olympic events will be split between the mountain resort of Krasnaya Polyana and a purpose-built Olympic Park in the city, connected by a 45-minute high-speed train line.
As with any major project, there have been problems.
Human Rights Watch put out a report the day before the "year to go" milestone claiming that workers have been exploited by the construction companies. CNN contacted organizers for comment but has not received a response.
Last year's high-profile alpine skiing test event -- the Winter Olympics' glamor sport -- was marred by criticisms of the course.