(The following op-ed was written by photographer Jeff Cable who is in Sochi, Russia covering the 2014 Winter Olympics. The story originally appeared on Cable’s blog in a slightly different form. You can follow Cable’s experiences at the Winter Olympics on his Facebook page.)
By Jeff Cable
You know all those articles that talk about the problems at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia? Well, guess what…they are all true.
Yesterday, my day started off great. The drive to the Moscow airport was perfect, with little congestion and Wi-Fi in the taxi. I got to the airport in Moscow and navigated the system really well, running into some friends from Canon, and I even managed to get my camera bag on carry-on this time.
The flight to Sochi was smooth and we arrived early. I got all my luggage, got my credentials blessed at the airport, found the right press bus and I was feeling great.
Then we got to the “hotel” and I use the word loosely.
We arrived at a cluster of 16 buildings that look like dormitories. There was no reception area for us to check in, there was just one building which had a large dirty room with people scrambling to get us situated.
They obviously did not have rooms assigned to anyone as each of us that showed up were given successive hotel rooms, me in 256, the next person in 257, etc. So my new neighbors and I went up to the 4th floor to our rooms and were shocked when we saw our living space.
Remember, these are brand new buildings! The floors are so filthy that I don’t think they were ever vacuumed after the construction was done. There is almost no furniture in the room, and what is there is almost unusable.
There are small TVs in the rooms, but they do not work. There are no phones in the rooms and worse yet, there is NO Internet at all. No hard wired and no wireless. I am writing this blog from a downstairs common room in a different building (with 15 other pissed off media), and I swear the Internet is running at dial-up speeds.
How is it that a country that spends almost $50 billion on the Olympics can end up with accommodations like this? Seriously, it is embarrassing. If I told you how much I paid for this “hotel room” you would choke.
The good news is that I do have four walls around me, and I do have a bed. I am not sure if I have hot water yet, since I tried running the sink to get hot water and it didn’t work. I found a lady who looked like she might work here and she told me to let it run for 10 minutes. It might get warm then.
I visited some friends at the Main Press Center tonight (which is an amazing building, by the way) and they were all laughing about the showers with no shower curtains, the cleaning service which does not exist, and the lack of communications in 20 press buildings.
I even heard a story of one of the guys from the USOC who showed up to his hotel in the mountains, only to find a construction site. So I guess I should be happy to have a room.
Starting in a couple of days, I will spend very little time in this building, as the Olympics will be all consuming. But for now, it is incredibly frustrating.
I would post more photos but the Internet is so bad that myself and 15 other photographers are just trying to post text.
Read Cable’s follow-up post on Sochi here.
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