Photo credit to pcadvisor.co.uk
With threats of Jihad against the Winter Olympics and a logistical nightmare having been on his plate for years, Russian president Vladimir Putin has only added to his problems: he has thoroughly upset the journalists.
The Olympics are underway at last. However, that does not mean it has gone off without a hitch. As if foreshadowing the troubles to come, there was a glitch in the opening ceremony, resulting in only four of the five Olympic Rings lighting up.
Many of Sochi's problems became apparent when journalists arrived at their hotels on January 19th. It was not a matter of finding the rooms left unclean from previous occupants-some of the rooms were not even fully built yet! Others suffered from lack of amenities. One reporter found his furniture unassembled and still wrapped in plastic. A second, ironically, tried to call front desk about poor conditions in his room, only to find the phone did not work. Sounds like nitpicking, but how would you like it if you found that your room's tap water was the color of stale urine?Stacy St. Clair, another reporter, said on her Twitter feed, "My hotel has no water. If restored, the front desk says, ‘do not use on your face, because it contains something very dangerous.'"
There are more pressing concerns than beer water, broken down elevators, phones that don't work, and finding stray dogs in your allegedly five-star hotel room, but it goes to show how unprepared Russia really is in undertaking such a monumental event. Is it whining? Perhaps, though one would think that an Olympics with a staggering price tag of $50 billion would try its best to keep the press happy.
"It's a lesson well learned", says Howard Kurtz of Fox News, "if journalists aren't well fed and well housed, if you lose their luggage or don't give them places to file, they get cranky - and that affects the coverage."
The media's complaints aside, the Olympic organizers worst fears nearly became manifest mere hours before the Games began. There was a hijack attempt onboard a Pegasus Airlines flight from Kharkov, Ukraine to Istanbul, Turkey. A man attempted to divert the flight to Sochi, claiming he possessed a bomb. Being unsuccessful in reaching the cockpit, the crew managed to land in Istanbul, where security forces raided the plane. Authorities determined there was, in fact, no bomb present, and the detonator in his hand was a fake. The man was apparently "severely intoxicated," according to the Telegraph. While it is not known he had any connections to known terrorist cells, this incident is a grim reminder of the real concern at Sochi.
While bloated security forces occupy the city and protests over Russia's new discriminatory law against homosexuals ignite, Putin is scrambling to save face. Bad press over shoddily prepared hotels is just another headache.