Tuesday, February 4, 2014

An update from Sochi - everything in the press is true

You know all those articles that talk about the problems in Sochi? 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 WiFi 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... 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. And if I told you how much I paid for this "hotel room" you would choke.

The good news is that I do have 4 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 photos but the Internet is so bad that myself and 15 other photographers are just trying to post text. 

31 comments:

World War II Tour said...

Wow that sucks big times. Well I'm glad to read that you have a room available. I sure hope the rest of your time in Sochi will be better then the start.

Goodluck, and still try to enjoy!

Sarah Key said...

So disappointing, but not surprising. Here's to hoping that you all stay safe!

Unknown said...

This isn't shocking and is what happens when you let one of the most corrupt governments in the world host an international event. I am sure there is some money moving sideways at every Olympics, but this has to be one of the biggest jokes of all time. I am sorry you have to deal with this, but hope you get some excellent photos.

Scott Hamill said...

At least you know it will be an unforgettable experience. Good luck!

Jesse said...

Jeff, keep your chin up!! Take lots of pics of the conditions. There is nothing online yet, just 1 photo of the CDN hockey team's small room.

I guess be glad you have a room.

Spend lots of time at the Media Center. Sounds like that may be the only communication.

I've been following the blog religiously over the last 2 weeks. Can't wait for the pics from the action.

Milos Martinovic said...

Hi, Jeff, this is typical Russian stuff. I worked on one of the hotels in Sochi as an architect (not your hotel) and it was barely "finished" just a few days before the guests arrived. They just scrambled to finish the works any way they could. Of the 50 billion they spent, probably 85% has magically disappeared through corruption but that's the norm here in Russia. So, welcome! :) Hope the hotel is the worst part of your stay and everything else turns out fine.

Anonymous said...

Well it seems like you need a lot of good luck!! looking forward to seeing some great photos of the fine hotel .. best of luck to you

Anonymous said...

A third World Country then? Frankly I'm not surprised by your comments!

Gene said...

That country haven't change a bit since I left it that way 25 years ago. Treat it like you'd go to African safari in z middle of nowhere! Just get some good photos!

Christina said...

I haven't been to Russia but when I was in the Ukraine and stayed at a "5 star hotel" in Odessa, I was truly disappointed. Over the next 5 days I traveled and often didn't have running water. A toilet seat build on a wooden box over the hole in the ground was a luxury. The "resort" we stayed at in Nikoliva had running water but no heat and hot water was only turned on for 2 hours in the morning and evening. I never felt the hot water when I showered in the 2 ft area with no shower curtain. When we got back to Odessa and stayed at the same hotel, I was truly thankful and grateful for the same accommodations a few days before I was horrified at.

I'm looking forward to reading your blog and hearing the stories and hope you find internet access.

Luis said...

USSR feelings...

Unknown said...

Makes one appreciate what one has at home… drought and all.

mik said...

Really feeling for you Jeff! I suspect everyone knew this was coming..... and just hoped it wouldnt!!! Really hope you get good internet access - live and breath by it

Ken Kroen said...

Jeff, This really sounds bad. Are all of the facilities like this? Would you mind if I reposted your remarks to another blog called RealRussia? Be safe brother!! looking for those photos of the disaster your in..
Ken in Pittsburgh..

Alan Telford said...

Sorry to hear your accommodation is disastrous, hopefully the sports should compensate. One of my friends, who is on the British team, told me they had been warned that the comms would be bad because the security would be so tight. Hang in there!

TJ Coates said...

That really sucks. There's nothing that ruins an anticipated trip more than lacking accommodations. Like you said, you should definitely expect more from the most expensive Olympics ever.

Nothing 2 Special said...

WOW!!! I hope things are better at the Games.

Cheryl Martinelli said...

Good luck!! You are right, that is an embarrassment to Sochi. Best wishes for your time during the games!!

Cheryl Martinelli said...

You are right, that is quite the embarrassment for Sochi. Good luck with your room survival, and best wishes as you photograph this world event!!!

RedmondRich said...

Jeff it is a good thing you are not in a war zone or place of conflict, it could be much worse.

RedmondRich said...

OK Jeff you are there, but how would you know until you arrived ??? Just be thankful you are not in a WAR zone, or a place of great conflict. YOU will probably find out that sleeping in that room is less than comfortable too. Best of luck to you over next few days, take some good shots, give it flavor. Regards Richard

Essi said...

Jeff,
I feel truly sorry to hear all that about your situation, it reminds me the opening ceremony of Beijing Olympic Games when I tried my best to sneak into the closest possible area to the "Bird Nest" with a group of filmmakers and the "Olympic Peace Messenger!!!" (The only one in that games which was left behind the closed doors...) and eye witnessed how bad those few Chinese youth were treated there and at the end around 11pm a big chain of police officers knocked everyone out of the area with the final words in my ears: " it's finished, go home now!!!" and I happened not watching any Olympic games including the opening from TV after that as it was full of LIE...
Now I can see the history is repeating again this time in Russia in another way, but similar to what I have seen there in Beijing...
This is the glory of the dictators (Absolute corruption), praising them is the only thing allowed and the reality is far away from what is shown in their media...

Sean Condon said...

Wow, can't wait to see the pics of your arrival.

Jeff Cable said...

For people asking for permission to repost, I am OK with that as long as you link back to the blog.

Kostey said...

Russian TV will show all this like as You live in 5 star Hotels and will show only Happy Journalists...
Hang on Jeff!!! Just be optimistic!!!

Kerry Frank said...

Not surprised at all Jeff. Good luck, looks as if you have a good attitude and have taken some great photos so far. Keep the blog coming as it's interesting to me to see the behind the scenes work that is needed to shoot the Olympics.

Kevin Hall,UK said...

A sad sorry state for the Russian hospitality,by the sounds of it they have spent too much on the Olympics & not bothered about the grafters & behind the scenes people that put the Olympics & their country out there for the rest of the world to see.
Good luck Jeff with the job in hand of covering the Olympics with your superb photography, love your work,
Best of luck,Enjoy & be safe !

Don said...

Jeff, don't eat any crab...Only will make matters worse.

Marvin Bowen said...

I would like to use a couple of your photos of the lack of completion in a video. Full credit with active links in the description will be used. Is this OK with you?

Jeff Cable said...

Marvin- that's fine. :)

Anonymous said...

Guys, you are so funny.

Hotels for press are not really hotels, they will be reconstructed after olympics into houses for sochi citezens.

So yeah, it's very reasonable to install HDTV, make everything perfect for you to stay there for 2 weeks. And then wipe it out and rebuild it.

Stop whining and do your job.