Western journalists have spent the better part of this week criticizing Russia's preparation for the Sochi Olympics. On Thursday, according to the Wall Street Journal, Russia responded with a highly disturbing defense.
Dmitry Kozak, the deputy prime minister who helped spearhead the Sochi Games, indicated that some Western visitors had been deliberately trying to sabotage their rooms in Sochi in order to make Russia look bad. Seems a little Cold War-paranoid, but we'll roll with it for the moment. How, exactly, does Kozak know that sabotage is afoot?
"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 said.
Well, that seems like very bad behavior by the hotel guests, and shouldn't be — wait a second, they've got surveillance video of the showers?
Kozak was on a tour of the media center when he made these comments, and an aide reportedly hustled him away before anyone could ask a followup about that curious little comment.
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"We've put 100,000 guests in rooms and only gotten 103 registered complaints and every one of those is being taken care of," Kozak said. Of course, the magnitude of what constitutes a "registered complaint" wasn't clear.
Visitors to Russia are already apparently seeing their electronic devices getting hacked the moment they step off the plane. Now it appears they are on surveillance video even in places they believed were private.
On a broader scale, Russian officials expressed frustration with the negative perception of Sochi, noting that all the Olympic venues were brought to completion on time.
"I'm very offended that the closer we get to the opening of the Olympics, the more hysteria around Russia becomes inflamed in the Western media," Vladimir Yakunin, president of Russian Railways, wrote. "There's not a word about the quality of the Olympic facilities, about the fact that the level of readiness of the Olympic infrastructure has no analogues in the world."
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"In fairness, I would ask everyone to recall the reports from international and our domestic media about various Olympics," Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin, said. "Everywhere someone doesn't like the food, someone doesn't like the hotel, someone thinks the mattress is too hard, etc. That is, such complaints accompany all Olympics. But the guest is always right and the organizer is obliged to listen to these complaints."
Once the actual competition begins, complaints will fade into the background. The mutual suspicion, however, doesn't seem to be going anywhere.
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