As athletes and journalists from around the world stream into Sochi, where the Winter Olympics are about to kick off, many have complained about poor infrastructure and shoddy hotels. Some of their photos are indeed damning, but, according to our Russian Observers, certain gripes have been blown out of proportion.
The photo that has received the most attention is one tweeted by a BBC journalist, showing two toilets, side by side, with only one toilet paper dispenser and with no divider.
The photo was quickly reposted by media outlets worldwide, but online sleuths
pointed out that traces of a diving wall had been removed. A photographer went back later to check: indeed, it seems the toilets had been removed to turn the space into a storage room, and that the first photo had been taken in the midst of this conversion. Not the best planning, perhaps, but at least nobody will have to ask their toilet mate to pass the paper. Unless, of course, these other double toilets spotted in Sochi don’t get turned into storage spaces, too…
Other journalists reported that their hotels did not have water, or that if they did, it came out yellow.
Not pleasant, certainly, but not uncommon, according to our Observer Anastasia, who lives in Russia:
Hot water cuts are frequent throughout Russia. And when this happens, the water often comes back yellow at first. In any case, you should avoid drinking tap water in most Russian cities!
Also not uncommon, Anastasia says, is being asked to throw toilet paper in a bin instead of the toilet, which shocked some foreign visitors. (In fact, this is a widespread practice in many countries.)
Anastasia, like many of our Russian Observers, was not shocked by these inconveniences:
While we might have liked to see more efforts made in Sochi, this is really not different than what we see in hotels throughout Russia – no better, no worse.
Another Russian Observer, who preferred to stay anonymous, adds:
Russians can talk for ages about the problem of hotels – even in Moscow, it’s impossible to find a decent hotel unless it’s 5 stars and super expensive. Cheaper hotels are more like barracks; for inexplicable reasons, there isn’t really much in between. And in Sochi, it’s just the same; it seems the people who build these hotels are more interested in making money than in their clients’ comfort!
According to this CNN sports journalist, his team had reserved 11 hotel rooms, only to be given one room upon arrival in Sochi.
Our Observer Dmitry Kolezev found that despite some nitpicking, visitors’ jokes were overall quite funny:
To me, these jokes are not disrespectful for the Russian people themselves; they’re only highlighting the fact that so much money has been spent in Sochi while we have so many other problems that need fixing: bad roads, bad hospitals, bad schools… [Russian authorities have spent approximately 37 billion euros
to transform the town into an Olympic resort] And after so much money was spent, the conditions at Sochi are still poor. So what can we do? Just laugh, because we Russians laugh even in bad situations!
Not all were amused, however. Ivan Anisimov says:
I'd love to see other countries create Olympics village from scratch like Russia did - let's see if everything would be perfect there!