Russian official defends Sochi accomodations

This is hilarious, even for Russia. The Deputy Prime Minister responsible for preparations for the Winter Olympics in Sochi issued a blistering condemnation of reporters who were furiously tweeting about the crappy, half built hotel rooms they were forced to stay in.

Dmitry Kozak thinks that it's a plot by the west to undermine confidence in the games. He says that only 103 complaints have been received about the hotels. How does he know that there is a plot to embarrass Russia?

Surveillance video in hotel bathrooms, he said.

Wall Street Journal:

Rooms without doorknobs, locks or heat, dysfunctional toilets, surprise early-morning fire alarms and packs of stray dogs: These are the initial images of the 2014 Winter Olympics that foreign journalists have blasted around the world from their officially assigned hotels-and the wave of criticism has rankled Russian officials.

Dmitry Kozak, the deputy prime minister responsible for the Olympic preparations, seemed to reflect the view held among many Russian officials that some Western visitors are deliberately trying to sabotage Sochi's big debut out of bias against Russia. "We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day," he said. An aide then pulled a reporter away before Mr. Kozak could be questioned further on surveillance in hotel rooms. "We're doing a tour of the media center," the aide said.

A spokesman for Mr. Kozak later on Thursday said there is absolutely no surveillance in hotel rooms or bathrooms occupied by guests. He said there was surveillance on premises during construction and cleaning of Sochi's venues and hotels and that is likely what Mr. Kozak was referencing. A senior official at a company that built a number of the hotels also said there is no such surveillance in rooms occupied by guests.

"I'm very offended that the closer we get to the opening of the Olympics, the more hysteria around Russia becomes inflamed in the Western media," he wrote. "There's not a word about the quality of the Olympic facilities, about the fact that the level of readiness of the Olympic infrastructure has no analogues in the world."

Mr. Kozak toured the giant, gleaming new media center Thursday morning, marveling at the huge workspace built specially for the thousands of journalists who have come from around the world to cover the Games.

Asked about the widely reported problems with hotel rooms not being ready for guests, he was dismissive. "We've put 100,000 guests in rooms and only gotten 103 registered complaints and every one of those is being taken care of," he said. (It wasn't clear what Mr. Kozak was counting as a registered complaint.)

Russia spent $50 billion dollars to put on the games. Contrast that with Vancouver, who hosted the 2012 games spending a little more than $8 billion - most of that from private sources.

What has Russia gotten for its $50 billion? Putin's intent was to turn Sochi into something like a Geneva on the Black Sea - a first class tourist destination winter and summer. But Sochi is not only smack in the middle of a low level civil war in the region, it's very hard to reach. It's doubtful too many westerners will think of Sochi as a place to spend hard currency if getting to the site is as difficult as it is for the games.

It appears that a lot of the complaints from the press aren't echoed by the athletes who seem satisfied with their accomodations. We haven't heard from other tourists because frankly, they aren't showing up. We'll see how full the venues are for the big events coming up later this weekend.

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