Privacy in Sochi? Njet

Despite being told by official travel advisories world-wide, to expect absolutely no privacy in Sochi, folks sure are a-Twitter about having absolutely no privacy in the region. In an I-told-you-so feature on Internet privacy for NBC news, Richard Engel got his brand new phones and computers hacked within minutes. Journalists have complained of excessive security at hotels and an intimidating police presence that targets reporters.

But sometimes the news doesn’t have to be reported. The Wall Street Journal reported today that in a response to questions about water availability, quality and temperature, Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak pooh-poohed complaints, citing a mere 103 complaints for 100,000 rooms. Plus, he mentioned wasteful Western water usage: ‘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.’ A horrified aide whisked him away. The state issued a clarification, citing the need for surveillance during construction, and that no occupied room was being monitored.

Just in case, Business Insider contributor and former NSA operative John Schindler Tweeted this advice for Sochi’s shower users: ‘How is FSB watching you in your hotel bathroom? Shut door & run shower hot for 10 mins. Clear spot on mirror is the cam. #Sochi #CI #protip’

Absolutely no privacy indeed!

Dmitry Peskov, Vadimir Putin’s spokesman, tried to put grumpy journalists at ease:

‘In fairness, I would ask everyone to recall the reports from international and our domestic media about various Olympics,’ Mr. Peskov said. ‘Everywhere someone doesn’t like the food, someone doesn’t like the hotel, someone thinks the mattress is too hard, etc.’

Kozak and Peskov have yet to get back on us about the exact meanings of ‘hotel complaint’ and ‘etc.’

The shower slip-up was a doozy, and Peskov’s understatement, well, understated, but the gold for PR backfire goes to state-run feel-good news source Russia Beyond the Headlines for its haiku contest. In an attempt to litter the Twitterverse with hokey sentimentality, the US version of RBTH started a haiku contest on Twitter, with this solid reasoning: ‘At RBTH, we believe that nothing gets to the heart of the Olympic spirit better than Japanese poetry about a Russian city written by Americans…’ An example followed:

Olympics in snow
At a resort by the sea
Only in Russia.

The response was overwhelming, but not quite the snow bunny dreck RBTH expected. There were political poems,

Going to #Sochi Games?
Ask: Where are the #Circassians?
Moment of silence.

Poems about conditions and preparedness,

Stray dogs all around
This hotel has no lobby
Don’t drink that water.

And poems that addressed a bloated price tag for an event most Russians won’t be able to attend,

The games in #Sochi
It isn’t about winning
It’s about spending.

If the events themselves are as fun as the jostling lead-up, this could be the best Olympics ever!