Journalists, spectators, and athletes in town for the Sochi Olympics (which start today) have been reacting to their unfinished hotel rooms, dirty water, and unfamiliar lavatory setups with a mix of amusement and frustration on social media. Less genial are the Russian officials tasked with running the games, who have begun accusing their detractors of deliberately sabotaging the Olympic village in an effort to embarrass Russia. And they can prove it too, thanks to the surveillance cameras installed in visitors’ showers.
At least that seemed to be the admission from Dmitry Kozak, a deputy Prime Minister who is responsible for overseeing the Sochi Olympics. He spoke with the Wall Street Journal about the endless stream of criticism, and was eager to offer his evidence that much of it is fabricated.
“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 told the paper. Before the Journal could inquire as to how Russian officials were able to see inside the showers of hotel guests, an aide stepped in and pulled the reporter away from Kozak.
Whether or not the claim by Kozak is true, Russia’s Olympic games are already rife with privacy concerns. NBC News reporter Richard Engel filed a report from Sochi on Tuesday documenting how hackers in Russia were able to gain access to both of his computers and his cell phone in a matter of minutes, and the U.S. State Department has issued a warning to anyone traveling to the games that they should have “no expectation of privacy, even in their hotel rooms.”
Not every Olympic venue is a disaster area. Most of the facilities being used by the athletes — both their accommodations and the event facilities themselves — were completed ahead of schedule and without missing doorknobs, ceilings or hot water. But the overall lack of preparedness has many wondering what became of the $51 billion that was spent on the Sochi games, more than every other winter Olympics combined.