IOC official: We recognized Sochi hotel problems 'too late'

By Mike Singer |

It's no secret that Sochi wasn't ready for the influx of visitors. (USATSI)

Aside from the Opening Ceremony (and even that wasn't perfect), hardly anything tied to the Sochi winter Olympics began smoothly.

Stray dogs, displaced from the vast construction in the region, were being euthanized by the hundreds. Disgusting yellow liquid that could hardly be described as water leaked from the faucets. Door knobs fell off their hinges. Bathrooms were ill-equipped for visitors. A SochiProblems Twitter account spawned and soon surpassed the actual Olympics account. At last check, the “problems” account had nearly 350 thousand followers. Even Bob Costas, the veteran NBC warhorse, wasn't immune. Perhaps Costas bathed with the aforementioned water when he came down with pinkeye.

Nevertheless, it's hardly surprising that in their first public comments about the chaos, a Sochi official admitted that organizers realized the wide-ranging hotel problems “too late”.

Jean-Claude Killy, the IOC's chief supervisor, told the Wall Street Journal that the IOC issued a “red alert” in September once it realized that hotel preparations were far behind schedule.

“We realized it too late,” Killy told the WSJ, saying that construction agencies were more focused on building the Olympic venues than they were the hotels. “All the alarms went up in September. What do we need to do? There is no way to organize the Games if you can't accommodate people.”

Two of our favorite images:

Enter the red alert. The workforce expanded up to 100,000 people, working around the clock everyday of the week for months. According to Killy, the hyper-speed effort likely cost organizers millions, but that likely represented just a drop in the bucket for Vladimir Putin's $50 billion dollar budget.

Still, without Putin's support, says Killy, the Games would've commenced with an even more pronounced false start.

“When you become friends with [Putin], and ask for something and see it within two hours, that's very impressive,” Killy said.

Sochi lacked the hotel space, lacked a basic sports complex infrastructure, and organizers had to work around the difficulties of the Black Sea's coastal climate. Some of the sports structures were built atop areas that were once swamps.

According to the report, Sochi needed to construct 22,000 hotel rooms along with a new 30-mile highway to help visitors and athletes travel to the Caucasus Mountains.

While reporters had no problem illuminating Sochi's vast problems, Killy did point out that “nobody slept outside.” So at least there's that.

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