I was surprised and excited when The Loafer asked me if I'd be willing to go and cover the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Naturally I said yes, and after equipping myself with a ton of winter gear from L.L. Bean, I boarded an airplane and off I went. There's been many reports about the conditions of the hotels in Sochi, and let me tell you, from a first hand experience, those reports are absolutely correct. It's as if someone decided to use the first level of the N64 Goldeneye game as a style guide.
When these winter games are over, the leftover incomplete hotels can be marketed as the first accommodations in line with a “Choose Your Own Adventure” theme. Standing in the potato field, um, lobby of my hotel, I looked to the left, then to the right. To the left looked like a mishmash of treachery that could have been passed off as a low rent attempt at a Russian version of the 90s kids game show, Legends of the Hidden Temple.
I went to the right, and found a moderately clean hallway leading towards the rooms. Moderately clean, outside of the three live electric wires, dead rodents, and empty vodka bottles. My room was, considering what I had seen so far, nice. The bed appeared to be habitable, and the 56k Dial Up internet was something to behold. There was a TV on the wall, which surprised me, however it only received one channel. A channel made of nothing but an endless loop of shirtless pictures of Vladimir Putin, with The Human League’s “Don't You Want Me?” playing on repeat.
The bathroom was warm, which was nice, it was small and cozy. The shower only worked once during the day, and the toilet wasn't so much a toilet as much as a bucket with a note attached to it that informed me that once a day, a man named Klauss would dispose of whatever was inside it. The first night in my room was OK, I slept some, but it was hard to drift off to sleep with the constant sounds of ferrets crawling around in the walls.
Waking the following morning, I washed myself as quickly as I could and left my hotel. The road to the the arena where the game I was going to cover was bumpy, and felt like I was on a ride at Disneyland. Sochi had done their best to give the town a look of olympic glory, and a large velvet painting of Tonya Harding was alongside the venue I arrived at. The venue was where the ice skating would be taking place, but at the time I was there, there was no ice skating going on.
Instead there was a children's game taking place called “Jump the Fish,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Kids dressed in parka's jumping over fish on ice. I'm sure it was the type of quality event that lived up the standards that a stadium with a velvet painting of Tonya Harding outside of it would have. I decided to return to my hotel instead of chronicling this fascinating game. I returned to my room to discover that Klauss had done his duty.
There was a press luncheon in the newly constructed hotel ballroom, that they literally just finished an hour before the event. I took my seat at the table I was assigned to, and the entertainment began. The Russian Police Choir was there singing, they wowed everyone at the opening ceremony with their version of Daft Punk's hit “Get Lucky,” but equally impressive is their rendition of “Do The Funky Chicken.”
The luncheon began when I was served a piece of cheese shaped like their president on a cracker, the menu simply referred to this as “A Putin on A Ritz.” There was vodka to go with all of this, no surprise, and I was thankful for it, as the main course, some type of poached fish, looked eerily enough like the same fish the children were jumping over not too long ago. Thank heaven tums travel well.
As I pondered the rest of my day, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t like the idea of a man named Klauss emptying my bucket, jumping the fish, or presidential cheese, though the vodka was nice. I made a phone call, and left Sochi for a long plane ride back to the good ole U.S of A. I went home, took a hot bath, and was thankful for the little things in life, like indoor plumbing.