Amusing @SochiProblems spotlights early Olympics fails

Reporters arriving in Russia for the winter games report Sochi might not be quite ready for the world. One Twitter handle has taken on the responsibility of aggregating the insanity that has ensued.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Expertise Solar, solar storage, space, science, climate change, deregulated energy, DIY solar panels, DIY off-grid life projects. CNET's "Living off the Grid" series. https://www.cnet.com/feature/home/energy-and-utilities/living-off-the-grid/ Credentials
  • Finalist for the Nesta Tipping Point prize and a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Eric Mack
3 min read
Tandem toilet spotting has become a favorite early event in Sochi. Video screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

By now you've surely heard about the myriad problems encountered by reporters arriving early in Sochi, Russia, this week in advance of the Winter Olympics. There are the odd toilet arrangements, the mobs of stray dogs, unfinished hotel rooms without doorknobs -- and those are just the fun parts of winter tourism in Russia!

The stories and images of a city that didn't quite manage to transform itself into a world-class resort town before the start of the games (despite the whopping $50 billion spent to reach that goal) are all over the Web, television, radio, and social networks. There are so many hilarious examples of tandem toilets, falling ceiling fixtures, and general disarray that it's almost exhausting, like any other meme with serious legs. In fact, someone should make sure this meme hasn't been taking virality-enhancing drugs.

Enter Twitter handle @SochiProblems, here to save the day by aggregating the hilarity that ensues when one country tries to raise its standards at a breakneck pace, despite the fact that the people responsible for doing that upgrade work are still living in a culture with lower standards when it comes to things like hot water and manhole covers.

The world has come to Sochi to witness not only the glory of sport and competition, but also the goofy growing pains of globalization. For those who can't make it to Russia in person, there's always Twitter; @SochiProblems has already amassed more than 95,000 followers in just a few days.

Of course, some people might find the way some things are still done in Russia to be more homey and intimate, like a really weird New England bed and breakfast.

To be fair, though, a lot of the "Sochi is gross" meme can be chalked up to a certain level of naivete of some members of the media. Toilets and plumbing systems unable to handling the flushing of toilet paper is a really common sight across the developing world.

Several of the weird Sochi photos that have gone viral have also begun to be called out as fakes -- Matt Novak over at Gizmodo's PaleoFuture blog has done us the service of compiling some of the widely distributed impostors seen on @SochiProblems and elsewhere.

So what do the Russian hosts of these games have to say for themselves? They prefer to blame the victims.

A Russian official spoke to reporters in an attempt to set the narrative straight by blaming snobby Westerners who are determined to sabotage the host country's image. And, oh yes, he's got evidence to back this up:

"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," deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak told the press, according to The Wall Street Journal.

I beg your pardon, did you say you have surveillance footage of hotel showers? Perhaps the problems in Sochi run deeper than what can be aggregated by a single Twitter account.

If the lead-up to these Winter Games is this entertaining (and creepy), I can't wait to see what happens in the weeks before the 2016 summer games in steamy and also somewhat underdeveloped Rio de Janeiro.