Keeping up the Sochi facade

olympic ring failure
Four of five Olympic rings are seen lit up during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014. REUTERS/Phil Noble (RUSSIA – Tags: OLYMPICS SPORT)

Editor’s Note: The following piece is from the perspective of Metro World News reporter Alexey Shunaev.

“You’re a journalist, right? Then let me tell you a story,” says a checkout operator in his 50s, grabbing my jacket sleeve to stop me from exiting the 24-hour convenience store. It was 2 a.m., lashing rain outside and I was keen to get back to the hotel. But I stayed a while to hear the cashier’s tale.

“My nephew works in the hospital here. About a year ago, he told me that he got an emergency call from the bobsled track, which was being built at the time,” he continued. “When the paramedics arrived at the scene, they found the bodies of four construction workers, Uzbekistani nationals, smashed into different parts. Do you know what happened? After a hard day’s work, they decided to relax, drank their fair share of vodka and then got the idea to go for a slide down the track. So, they each took a cardboard box, flattened it and bombed down the race course like Russian luger Alber Demchenko, crashing to pieces.”

The cashier smiled at me and asked if I liked his “exclusive story.” I smiled back, thanked him and left. The sensational story he told me sounded all too familiar. I must have heard it half a year ago but then it transpired as fiction, just a tall tale from someone’s mind.

The rain was bucketing down now, but oddly my clothes remained dry. Then it hit me: the deluge was as fake as the shopkeeper’s fable. I’m not even sure if he really has a nephew. Day by day, I’m beginning to get the feeling that the entire city of Sochi is one big fabrication.

Is this place the future capital of Russian sport? False! Originally they had decided that after the Games, they will relocate all the sporting facilities to other cities, because nobody here will need a curling center or a 40,000-capacity stadium.

Is Sochi Russia’s first completely barrier-free city, giving people with disabilities easy access, as the authorities claim? It’s false! Yes, there are plenty of ramps and elevators dotted around, but many are poorly serviced and have been out of order for months.

Inside my hotel room, I have one fake television set, a fake lamp and fake light switcher – that is, they’re all in place but don’t function whatsoever. Let’s say they’re there for cosmetic reasons. In some of the sports venues, there are fake Wi-Fi signals that barely give you a connection. And today, I ate a fake hot dog that left me with a bad case of heartburn.

But the sensation the cooked sausage left was a pleasant one. Why? Because it was perfectly real.


Drive charged in fatal hit and run, police…

The NYPD has arrested a man they say is responsible for a fatal hit and run in Manhattan last weekend. Doohee Cho, 33, was hit…


Mayor de Blasio raises minimum wage for some…

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order Tuesday morning that will raise the minimum wage for workers employed by private companies that receive more…


3 myths about the working poor

Linda Tirado works to debunk some common stereotypes about the working poor in her new book, "Hand to Mouth."


Lawsuit funding advances: friend or foe?

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article Many plaintiffs awaiting resolution of their lawsuit or legal claim often find themselves in a tricky financial…

Going Out

Which NYC restaurant lost its three-star Michelin rating?

A record 73 restaurants in New York City collected coveted Michelin stars on Tuesday as a mix of trendy spots and fine-dining stalwarts underscored the…


Interview: Metro chats with filmmaker Meir Kalmanson, man…

A New York filmmaker hands out smiles to its residents.


TV watch list, Tuesday, Sept. 30: 'Selfie,' 'Utopia'…

'Selfie' This modern day take on the "My Fair Lady" story stars John Cho in the Henry Higgins role. Perhaps instead of "the rain in…


Can't-miss weekend events continue to attract the masses

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article Earlier this summer, the Firefly Music Festival drew crowds of tens of thousands of people to Dover, Delaware.…


Mets 2014 report card

The Mets wrapped up their eight straight season without a playoff appearance last weekend. Needless to say, they fell a bit short of general manager…


NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys, Packers, Ravens, Chargers climb

NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys, Packers, Ravens, Chargers climb


Ryan Quigley making a big impact for Jets…

Ryan Quigley, now in his second year as the Jets punter, had an exceptional afternoon with six punts for an average of 51.7 yards per punt.


3 positives to take from Jets loss to…

The Jets suffered another loss Sunday — 24-17 to the Lions — but the reason why it hurts so much for Jets fans is that…


Products that support breast cancer awareness and research

Asics GT-1000, $100 Asics’ third pink collection in collaboration with Christina Applegate’s Right Action for Women includes this pink-accented version of its best-selling GT-1000 3…


Dr. Marisa Weiss: Where we stand on breast…

As an oncologist and a survivor herself, Dr. Marisa Weiss knows the urgency felt by those diagnosed with breast cancer. Genetic testing has accelerated the…


Bees' stingers hold new hope for cancer cure

A promising new lead in the search for a cancer cure has turned up in a place that most people naturally avoid. A team from…


Emily Henderson on small space design

Design expert Emily Henderson shows us how to upgrade our cramped quarters.