The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, haven't even officially started yet, but they've already gotten a pretty bad rap, thanks in part to horror stories about the conditions of the city's hotels. Reports of brown water, broken doors, unfinished construction, and plumbing problems have spawned the Twitter hashtag "#SochiProblems" -- but Us Weekly senior reporter Jennifer Peros says things aren't nearly as bad as they sound. Read her first-person, on-the-ground account of Sochi below.
Sochi is beautiful and everything is brand-new. Definitely different from most of Europe, though! No one really speaks English, including most volunteers in Olympic Park. It's also not a resort town...yet. They built a city for these games, and it's not quite ready.
That said, journalists are blowing the hotel situation a little out of proportion. There were a few tweets that people sent out that blew the "bad room" story up. From what I am hearing, the hotels in the mountain cluster are the bad ones. The coastal ones are fine. Everyone has running clear water, heat, etc. The hotels are by no means luxurious, but they're fine.
U.S. Skeleton Team athlete Katie Uhlaender tells Us exclusively, "Compared to Vancouver, it is way better! I have my own bathroom, places to store my clothes, and a fantastic view!"
Adds U.S. slopestyle skier Nick Goepper, who spoke to Us at the P&G Family Home in Sochi Olympic Park, "My room is great. It's state-of-the-art and brand-new. I have a Tempur-Pedic mattress, and we have a great gym and PT room. I love the rooms in athlete village. They're nice!"
My hotel room has a twin-size bed with a small TV that was still in the box when I got to my room. I also have a dresser, a small fridge, and a desk. It's tiny -- smaller than my college dorm room -- but I've stayed in a similar-size room in London. There are no toiletries and only one small towel; however, everything is brand-new. I can literally still smell the fresh paint.
It's really not so bad. And it's getting better and better every day. I already see a big difference in the hotel -- I had to wait 45 minutes to get my room, but by this evening, everything was running a lot smoother. The staff has a better idea of what is going on. I haven't seen one cleaning lady, though -- and there's definitely no room service!
My first meal consisted of chicken nuggets, french fries, and mashed potatoes. I am staying at a hotel called the Russky Dom, which is 14 buildings in different clusters. In the center are a bunch of tents -- bars, restaurants, pin-trading booths, and souvenir shops. All the world media is out at these places and mingling and talking about the Olympic experience. It's pretty cool and something you can only see at an event like this. Right now, I'm sitting with four American friends and a bunch of Russian traditional dancers that are performing in tomorrow night's Opening Ceremony! When in Sochi, I guess!
Besides that, there's some really lovely scenery. When you are here, you look to the left and see the Black Sea. Then you look to the right and see the most beautiful snow-covered mountains you've ever seen.
But it's also the hospitality of the Russian community that makes this place really great. Everyone is very welcoming and eager to show Russia's pride. You can sense that they really want to make these games successful.
Any time I ask someone why the room isn't ready, or why you can't bring a bottle of Sprite on the train, or why the wifi isn't working, everyone's response here is: "It's Russia."
Things never go according to plan, but they go. Because it's Russia.
For more on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi -- including personal stories from the Team USA athletes, and tons of photos -- pick up Us Weekly's special Olympics bookazine!