Wednesday, April 23, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
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Sochi organizers: Only 6 of 9 media hotels ready

SOCHI, Russia — A stray dog inside the hotel, building dust everywhere and debris scattered all around. That’s what some Olympic-accredited visitors have found on arrival in the mountains above Sochi.

According to the Sochi Olympic organizing committee, only six of the nine media hotels in the mountain area are fully operational. The accommodation for athletes, however, has not been affected by the problems.

The Olympics open on Friday, with some preliminary competitions scheduled for the previous day, but it is common for many journalists to arrive several days in advance of the games.

The Russian government has spent $51 billion on the Olympics in the hopes of turning the Black Sea summer resort into a year-round tourism destination. But persistent rain has soaked Sochi, delaying work and turning it into a sodden construction zone in the weeks leading up to the games.

While pre-games attention has focused on cost overruns, threats of terrorist attacks and the Russian law banning gay “propaganda” among minors, the hotel situation could become an embarrassment for local organizers.

Joerg Reuter, a German who is working at his fifth Olympics for the European Pressphoto Agency, was one of the unlucky guests when he arrived on Jan. 19. After seeing several unacceptable rooms, including the one with the dog, he was forced to travel back down to the coast to find a place to sleep.

Others have also been turned away this week, including at some of the hotels that organizers said Saturday are “complete.”

After his troubles, Reuter wrote a letter to the organizers to complain.

“The outdoor area and floors/staircase/elevator inside were still under construction and completely dirty,” Reuter wrote, adding that the room he was shown “had no light in the main room, the water out of the tap was yellow/brown, the air conditioning, TV, kitchenware were all not working … Beside this the room was totally dirty and everywhere covered with dust.”

The next room was worse.

“In some rooms you actually saw that there are still the construction workers sleeping and living,” he wrote.

Seeing the dog walk out of the third room he was shown was a step too far.

“When I came out of the elevator, there was the dog. I said, ‘Right, that’s it,’” Reuter told The Associated Press.

Organizers said in a statement Saturday that media who arrive to find an incomplete room will be given new accommodation, some with an upgrade.

“Within the three remaining hotels, the rooms are currently going through the final testing process and check of their services,” the organizing committee said. “At the end of the testing process guests will then be accommodated in the hotels they initially booked.”

Reuter said he is now happy with his accommodation.

“My room now is one of the best I ever had at Olympics. Perfectly equipped, nice and friendly service and a superb breakfast,” Reuter said. “I really feel safe and comfortable. I just wonder what happens to all the people who arrive in the next day?”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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