Sochi proves puzzling place for visiting journalists
Editor’s Note: The following report is from the perspective of Metro World News reporter Alexey Shunaev.
Seven years ago, when the subtropical resort town of Sochi won the bid the host the 2014 Winter Games, the world already sensed the city would rip up the “How to host an Olympics” rulebook.
There’s nothing wintry when it comes to the brand name of Sochi – only hot and steamy. The place is renowned across Russia for summer fun and making a quick buck on the touristy black market. So when it was decided to have the Games here, it was like opening Pandora’s box.
Take my arrival at my hotel, for example. In my room, I notice there are only two wall sockets – for three electrical appliances (the TV, the TV signal receiver and the refrigerator. But the kind hotel staff gave me a logical solution: The TV was in fact broken, so I could use the two other appliances without fuss.
Things have indeed been going awry here as of late. American bobsledder Johnny Quinn smashed his way out of a door after locking himself in his bathroom. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, the cabinet official responsible for Olympic preparation, insisted at a press conference that the litany of hotel problems – notably the yellow water – were blown out of proportion and claimed to have video evidence to prove it. Before journalists could ask if there really are hidden video cameras spying in guests’ rooms, the press conference ended.
And for me, it wasn’t a hard decision to walk to a shop two kilometers from the hotel – because there are no shops in the area. “Not yet!” insists the hotel administrator. I bought some water and juice and decided to ask my cashier, “Do you feel the Olympic spirit in the city?” He stared at me for a second and replied philosophically, “That depends on the order of words. You can say, ‘The blood, sweat and tears of angry construction workers who haven’t been paid is under the soil of the Olympic Park, but it’s a big event for the region that’s been a part of history for centuries.’ You can change the first part of the sentence with the second one to make the sense of it change. Make your choice.”