A Potemkin Olympic Village

Shoddy readiness of Olympics venue is scandalous

Vladimir Putin is lucky there aren’t judges for Sochi’s guest accommodations like there are for the figure-skating competition.

If there were, even the former East German judges would give him a “zero.”

Reporters and film crews who descended on Sochi for the winter Olympics found what could be termed a Potemkin Olympic Village: hotels and guest rooms that were nowhere near ready, door knobs that break off, decrepit conditions, warnings from the lobby about not splashing the brown tap water on one’s face – and, in some cases, guest rooms already populated by other guests or even local squatters.

Only six of nine hotels were prepared for the influx of media.

“Journalists at Sochi are live-tweeting their hilarious and gross hotel experiences,” one headline blared.

“Hotels are still under construction,” wrote The Washington Post. “Water, if it’s running, isn’t drinkable. One German photographer told the AP over the weekend that his hotel still had stray dogs and construction workers wandering in and out of rooms.”

One journalist is seen in a photo with one end of his room’s curtain rod stretching woefully to the floor.

“CNN booked 11 rooms in one media hotel five months ago,” he wrote on Twitter. “We have been here for a day and only one room is available.”

“I have a room!” another journalist tweeted. “No heating or internet, but it has a (single) bed at least...

“Got back to hotel,” he added later. “(Elevator) broken after half day in use. Trekked up stairs. Door to my floor (that’d be the fire door) locked. Utter farce.”

“Water main break means no water at our hotel,” another tweeted.

“Ok, so my hotel doesn’t have a lobby yet,” another wrote. “For those of you asking, when there’s no lobby in your hotel, you go to the owner’s bedroom to check in.”

“My hotel has no water,” yet another lamented. “If restored, the front desk says, ‘do not use on your face because it contains something very dangerous.’”

Then there are the safety fears, with U.S. officials warning of terrorism dangers and resulting restrictions on toiletries in carry-on bags. If they can’t get basic, decent accommodations right, let’s hope they can at least keep people safe.

These conditions and shortcomings would be nothing short of a scandal if they took place in, say, Lake Placid. In this case, it certainly throws open the window to a system that, whatever they want you to believe, is still suffering from communism and its twin: state corruption. It’s not at all ready for prime time.

Notes a blog at the
Heritage Foundation: “This is indicative of broader, systemic problems. ... Russia lacks a tradition in service industries, suffers from opaque business practices, and is riddled (with) corruption – all factors which led to the fiasco we see now.”

In the future, Olympic officials might want to be more careful about what kind of hosting offers they entertain. It may not be politically correct, but the truth is that free societies are more able to get the doorknobs to stay on and the water to be – well, washable.

The reasons for that are varied. There’s more accountability, less corruption, more incentive to perform, and more shame when one doesn’t.

Communism stinks.

Sometimes literally.

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