Russia has reportedly spent more than $50 billion—yes, 50 billion, with a "b"—on the 2014 Winter Olympics, making them the most expensive Olympic Games of all time (by comparison, Vancouver "only" shelled out about $8 billion for the 2010 Winter Olympics). They've spent the better part of the last seven years prepping the city of Sochi for the Olympics, built tons of new structures to house all of the Olympic athletes and the media covering the Games, and, at least in theory, planned for this year's Olympics to be the biggest and best Olympics ever. So why does it feel like the 2014 Winter Olympics are going to be a complete disaster?
The Olympics don't technically start until tomorrow night when the opening ceremony is set to take place in Sochi (though, for the record, a few events have started today). But already, it feels like we're hearing nothing but bad things about what's happening at the Winter Olympics. From problems at many of the hotels that house the Olympic athletes and media to issues with some of the setups for the Olympic events, almost all of the headlines coming out of Sochi right now are negative ones. The hashtag #SochiProblems is even trending on Twitter at the moment. And we're not going to lie: It has us really nervous about what's going to take place over the course of the next few weeks.
To show you what we mean, we assembled a list of 5 crazy news stories that have us worried about the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. If the Olympic Games end up being a mess this year, these things are probably going to be to blame.
News Story #1: Sochi has lots of stray dogs. Lots and lots and lots and lots of stray dogs.
The city of Sochi is home to tons of stray dogs. That sounds like a strange problem to have—and a strange thing to be at the top of this list. But the dogs are literally everywhere, and it's forcing Sochi officials to make a tough call. They either have to kill strays by the hundreds (it's estimated that they've killed as many as 7,000 dogs already) and risk upsetting a lot of animal activists out there or leave the dogs be and risk them biting athletes, reporters, and visitors to Sochi. There are some residents trying to save the dogs. But the situation has turned chaotic. And can you imagine what would happen if a stray dog were to randomly wander into an Olympic event? Not good.
News Story #2: Many of the hotels in Sochi are not ready to host Olympics athletes and members of the media.
Let's address the hotel situation that's being talked about by, well, everyone in Sochi right now. At the moment, both athletes and members of the media are being subjected to all kinds of ridiculous living conditions inside of some of the hotels in Sochi.
For instance, this reporter was told not to wash her face in her room—and then quickly found out why:
This reporter walked into his hotel only to discover that—welp—it didn't have anywhere to check-in at:
Ok, so my hotel doesn't have a lobby yet.— Mark MacKinnon (@markmackinnon) February 4, 2014
There is more than a little bit of evidence of poor planning on the part of whoever built some of the hotels:
And there are some tiny rooms in the Olympic Village that are going to house up to three grown men inside of them:
One of rooms Canada men's hockey team will stay in pic.twitter.com/7OJQd2m4bq— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) February 4, 2014
Of course, not everyone is staying in a room that makes the Econo Lodge look like the Four Seasons. For instance, here's the view that Lolo Jones has from her room:
But somewhere along the line, the Olympic organizers really dropped the ball when it came time to make sure that the hotels in Sochi would be ready for athletes and reporters. Because how else do you spend $50 billion and get such shoddy results? If this Vanity Fair article is any indication, those staying in a hotel right now would probably be better off checking out and staying on one of the many cruise ships that are going to be docked in Sochi. Otherwise, their Olympic experience is going to go down one of Sochi's non-functioning toilets:
Sadly, we're only half-joking about that...
News Story #3: Security in Sochi is going to be on everyone's mind throughout the duration of the Olympics.
The security in Sochi—and in Russia as a whole—is a gigantic question mark right now. Russia's government says that it's doing everything imaginable to keep the entire country safe during the Olympics. And they've taken extra precautions in Sochi by limiting the number of vehicles that have been allowed into the city in recent weeks and peppering the nearby mountains with members of the Russian army who are there to patrol Sochi and the surrounding lands. But the BBC just did a report on the Olympic security and dropped this gem from New York University professor/Russian security expert Mark Galeotti right in the middle of it. "I think it's almost guaranteed that there will be attacks elsewhere," he said. "There may even be attacks on Sochi, particularly probing the outer rim of the security zone." Wait, WHAT?! Did he just say "guaranteed"? Well, that's certainly comforting. Not.
(Sidebar: Why are the guards in the photo above taking pictures of each other? Shouldn't they be, like, securing something?!)
News Story #4: Sochi isn't actually as cold as you think it is.
Raise your hand if you assumed that it's always cold in Sochi, simply because it's in Russia. Uh, yeah. We'll admit it. Us, too! Except, well, it's not. Sochi is actually considered a subtropical climate and temperatures will likely be in the 40s and maybe even in the 50s during the Olympics. And that's going to make things difficult because—d'oh!—this is the Winter Olympics. Fortunately, Russia is prepared to make snow, if needed, for the Olympic events that require it. But they're going to have to work extra hard to keep the bobsled, luge, and skeleton tracks frozen. Didn't anyone consider this when they awarded Sochi the Olympics in the first place?!
News Story #5: Sochi's problems go way beyond just mediocre hotel rooms.
Shaun White announced that he won't be participating in the slopestyle event at the Olympics yesterday. And why is he skipping the event? Well, it's partly because he suffered a wrist injury recently and wants to make sure he's 100 percent healthy for the halfpipe competition at the Olympics (he's going for his third straight Olympic gold medal in that event). But it's also because the slopestyle course at Sochi is reportedly awful. Many snowboarders have complained about it, including White, and the rumor is that White didn't want to put himself in danger on a course that didn't seem fit for competition. So it sounds like Sochi's shortcomings go beyond just the hotel rooms. Olympic organizers may say that the courses they've created in Sochi are great. And they sure do look nice:
But one of the athletes that we were looking forward to seeing at the Winter Olympics IS NOT PARTICIPATING IN AN OLYMPIC EVENT BECAUSE OF THE CRAPPY CONDITIONS ON A COURSE! Ugh. It's frustrating, to say the least. And it has us nervous about what other problems are going to pop up between now and the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics. If there are already this many problems in Sochi before the Olympics, how many things are going to go wrong once they actually start?
Stay tuned. Because if this list of news items is any indication, we fear that we're going to find out the answer to that question sooner than later.