i live there, a reverse snowbird. i winter in russia. it is not bad. BUT it is harder than a jaunt down to say, paris. everything is different. catering to snobby tourists has never been russia's forte. BUT_ they are FAR FROM RUDE. well, shop assistants in teh past WERE not the smiley-faced "thank you and come again" type. but it wasn't exactly rudeness, they just didn't care. you bought carrots, so what? you'll be back when you need more.
a lot will be done, i think, to help foreigners at the olympics. but YES all olympics are expensive. i would try to book a flat, an apartment for two weeks. or three. whatever you need. food cooked by YOU will be cheap and very good. likely, food you buy ready cooked will be very tasty, too. so far, capitalism has not ruined a lot of our food. even in moscow, i buy "doktorskaya" sausage, a high quality bologna type (not sweet and salty like american bologna- this stuff is EDIBLE!) FOR 200-220 RUBLES. IT IS 199 IN OUR SHOPS(oops) 700 miles from moscow. i saw a hotel advertisement for moscow, 1900 rubles. of course, foreigners usually stay in more expensive places and may not be allowed in such a hotel. BUT in sochi- olympic hotels will be $$$ plus$$>$$. a flat would be best. even a room in an elderly lady's place may be found. i've done that from moscow to ukraine.
some people speak english well, others not. it may be unlikely to find english speakers. try to learn some russian. many on Y!A will help you. english teachers MAY be hired to assist, i don't know, just guess...
you go everywhere by train or bus. local buses are even in small cities. safe? well, 7 year old children walk to school, after school, to clubs, football (no soccer moms here) kindergarten moms, yes, after that, walk! walk to friend's houses alone, pairs, groups. safely. all hours of the day, and night falls at 4 pm in december. just be aware as in any city- pickpockets, especially in an olynpic environment. just button pockets and zip purses closed. they look for carelessness.
feel free or bored!! to look at my previous answers on russia. it is really a civilised place. oh! DO NOT BE AN AMERICAN!! that is don't be loud, don't show off in public. take pictures at all the monuments, etc, but don't be a chattering monkey! in all europe and mid east where i have travelled, it seems americans think no one speaks english, so they make buffoons of themselves. don't be a spectacle and stand out. please take this the right way.
feel free to contact me if you need specific answers to questions. i'd love for you to see russia. your family, too of course. all americans need to know russia. or some place that is not usa. but come with open mind, it really can be difficult on american standards. i've been in hotels where the bath is down the hall and cold in the bathroom but steam heated it some! but i wasn't there for the hotel...
we drink tap water nationwide, but EVERYBODY boils it first. we drink on the street from a fire hydrant-looking thing without boiling, though!
on the train or bus, you should always carry food and drink. you will need it!
welcome to russia from an american there for 19 years, half a year every year!
ch 2. let me add- air tickets to moscow plus air or train reservations to sochi- everyone and their dog will be on the train. it is a great way to move around russia, but tickets will be impossible at olympics time. don't get taken by a travel agent. (ask at least 3 travel agents) i pay about $50 for 700 miles to moscow. (one way rail, sleeping car, not coupe.) americans would think 200-300$$ is a bargain, but hopefully you can get them cheaper if you opt for rail.
IMPORTANT!! landing at domodyedovo or sheremyetevo airports will send you thru a bajillian taxi drivers. some may be independents, but most really just work for money. (russians have high integrity, by and large) there are stories of bad taxi drivers robbing people, etc, but that is unlikely. they just want $50 to drive you to the city. BUT the bus is about 100 yards from sheremetyevo door. 50c per person plus per big bag will get you to teh moscow metro- the subway. a buck a person/bag there will get you anywhere in moscow. if you fly into one and out another airport, allow TIME! i think 4-6 hours would be close. YOU MAY NEED MORE. from domodyedovo, there is a train as well as buses to the city. the express train (cheap on american standards) is 3$ to 5$ i think. 100-150 rubles (about 30 to the dollar now) you shouldn't need a taxi. in sochi, YOU MAY!
if you are the adventurer type, make a dry run this year or next. come to russia and experience the cities of moscow and st petersburg. learn how everything works somewhat. then when the important olympic visit happens, you have some on-hands experience. (i am far from rich,,, far from middle class... air for 6 month tickets is about $1000 per person, (return in 6 months). three week MAY be cheaper.
FIND WHERE MACDONALDS is. do not eat there, you do enough in usa. mc-d is a great rest room stop! often, you must pay (keep a roll of toilet paper with you- you can buy it everywhere, but you may not find it where you need it!) great for spills, greasy fingers, etc. public toilets can be hard to find.
after luggage is left at the hotel, expect to walk a lot. plan LIGHT bags. necessities only. a backpack MAY be better- hands are free. warm clothes, too. december is usually the coldest month, but moscow is not SO cold. sochi is tropical, palm trees and all, but the games will be in the frozen mountains nearby.
and specifically for your parents, russia is a safe place to be. i have visited tomsk, perm, kungur, tyumen, moscow, st petersburg, kazan, izhevsk, ulyanovsk, vologda, kirov, naberezhne chelny, and driven to every village and town (56 so far) nearby photographing churches. 878 kilometers, one day, 500-600 each several other trips. so my experience can vouch for safety here. sometimes driving through fields where no real roads are- just trails, searching for a village and asking in my horrible russian "where is russkiy pichas?"(a village) from field workers, tractor drivers, people at their houses- everywhere.