So, the journalists who have descended on Sochi, Russia for the 22nd edition of the Winter Olympics are finding the conditions not to their liking. Welcome to normal daily life in Russia.
Reports have been coming in via Twitter about the living conditions in the Olympic village with the lack of good or hot water, toilets, beds, and various amenities.
As a college student on a study abroad program in St. Petersberg, I saw some of the very same things…20 years ago.
Over the course of an eleven week stay there was no hot water for six of those weeks. A warm bath consisted of collecting tea kettles from fellow students walking the length of the dorm to the kitchen and waiting 45 minutes for the stove to heat the water; then carrying that water to the bathroom where a shower – minus the shower curtain – had a bath the size of a kiddie pool and dumping the hot water into the tub. Something I have yet to hear from the journalists is about the size of the towels. which are also small – like a hand towel in America.
Doing laundry – something I’m sure none of the journalists will do – was a wash by hand affair and hanging the wet clothing on the exposes hot water pipes in the shower…unless you found a local to fire for the job. There was a washtub that appeared after the Canadian group left and was passed around. The washtub – a bright orange plastic affair – was left for the next group to come along.
The dorm where we stayed was one used by the Communist elite school during the days of the Soviet Union. Those beds too were small – the tall guys pushed two beds together so they could fit in the bed.
The dorm had no televisions in the room, only a small radio that may or may not work; and not only did we not have wi-fi, we had no internet at all.
In preparing for the trip to Russia, we were told to bring everything we would need, including drain plugs, toilet paper and all personal items because we may not be able to find them once we arrived.
The complaints from Sochi decry the toilets that don’t take the paper, which must be put in a separate bin. Finking a toilet while in Russia was an adventure in itself. While our dorms had modern toilets, other places had a toilet that had the tank hanging on the wall; but there was one place where the “toilet” was nothing bug a tile floor with a drain like in the shower.
While some of my colleagues spent their time whining about the conditions, I chose to take each day as it came along and enjoy my time since I didn’t know whether it would come again.
As if the complaints about the living situation wasn’t enough, now there are reports of “Swag bag” complaints and how “bad” the items in the bags are. We too got a little “bag” of items when we arrived in St. Petersberg – a folder for our stuff, a Metro map, a mass transit pass for one month, and a holder for the pass.
Russia is considered a great military and political power, but the daily life of its citizens is much less powerful and lives without what first world nations consider must have mainstays of life.
The plethora of journalists from around the world who have gathered in Russia for the Olympics were chosen to report on the sporting events and the athletes from their nations; but have instead chosen to spend their time Tweeting about their less than cushy lifestyle. Even with all of the “issues”, they are still better off then millions of people around the world.