Meet the genius behind @SochiProblems Twitter sensation

Greg Wyshynski

SOCHI, Russia Hotel horror stories. Shabby, rushed construction. Odd signs. Stray dogs. Weird toilets.

These are the hallmarks of the 2014 Sochi Olympic experience, and these are the stories that fill the Twitter feed of @SochiProblems, a scathing collection of images, stories and random humor that chronicle the Winter Games host country’s oddest embarrassments.

It is, without hyperbole, a viral sensation: Its first image, a room in the Canadian athletes’ housing with three cramped beds was published on Feb. 4; by Saturday morning, Feb. 8, it had more than 303,000 followers.

To put that in context, the official Twitter feed for the Sochi Games had 189,000 followers. Maybe they should tweet more weird toilets…

Who started this feed? A sworn enemy of Vladimir Putin, perhaps?

Nah … a 20-year-old college student from Toronto.

Alex Broad is a journalism major at Centennial College. The inspiration for @SochiProblems was, actually, Canadian Problems.

[ Related: #SochiProblems: A semi-comprehensive glossary ]

As the Olympics neared their start, Broad was going to class one day and spilled Tim Hortons coffee on his plaid jacket. “I immediately laughed and thought ‘Canadian Problems,’” he recalled to CTV. When he began scanning the Web and found reports from Sochi about hotel rooms falling apart and stray dogs roaming the streets of the Russian city, it hit him: Sochi Problems was born.

But he never envisioned it would become the must-read Twitter feed of the 2014 Winter Olympics; or as Mashable called it, “the unquestioned star of this Haterade binge.”

“I think the popularity of the feed went viral so quickly because of the amp up to the games and the exuberant cost of this year's Olympics,” he told Yahoo Sports on Saturday, “and the unpreparedness of it.”

Out of all the tales of hotel room doors breaking, bizarre signage and Sochi in disrepair, did he have a favorite?

“My favorite nightmare story from Sochi is from Sean Fitzgerald [of the National Post], where he came back to his hotel after the Opening Ceremonies only to find out that the locks on his hotel door were changed,” said Broad.

“Personally, if I came back to my hotel room after a long hard day, I would be quite confused and rattled if my key wasn't opening my hotel room.”

But here’s the thing about @SochiProblems some are finding the complaints about them more problematic than the problems themselves.

[ Related: Sochi problems: Athlete finds open elevator shaft ]

Mashable’s Sam Laird wrote: “The increasingly gleeful schadenfreude surrounding individual inconveniences experienced by reporters on the assignment of a lifetime is also beginning to pick up the odious tinge of entitlement.”

Then there are the political undercurrents to chronicling the problems: Sochi faced harsh criticism before a single reporter set foot in Russia; the reports about problems with infrastructure and accommodations have allowed those critics to slap the entirety of the Games with a broad brush of failure.

Broad said his aim was never a political one, although some have suggested it is.

“There are subjects that I keep off limits. I created this account as a joke, something to laugh at, never imagining watching it grow to this extreme,” he said.

But even as hundreds of thousands anticipate the next Sochi problem to hit Twitter, Broad said he’s not going to let how others frame these stories affect his work.

“If I find something interesting which may be controversial, I'm gonna post it.”

Even if it’s another weird toilet.

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