Sochi, Russia: From the moment you walked into your apartment in the heart of the Rosa Khutor ski resort and noticed there was no bed, it was clear these were going to be a very, very special Winter Olympics.
“No, there is no bed,” declared the pleasant red-headed Russian woman behind the counter. “Only sofa bed.”
By sofa bed you mean a sofa that can be used as a bed?
“You are unhappy?”
Maybe a little bit. Beds are nice. Beds are warm.
But what’s a missing bed when other media have turned up to their hotel to find no hotel exists at all? Or the foyer is missing? Or there is no hot water? Or heating? Or a lift that works? Or that it’s just not finished? Or they can’t flush toilet paper?
Shut up and be thankful you have a sofa bed. And be thankful you aren’t a stray dog, either. They’re rounding them up and slaughtering them.
“Let’s call things by their real name,” says Alexei Sorokin, the owner of the company doing the slaughtering. “These dogs are biological trash.”
The Big Clean-up is on.
Forget about Chechen extremists, Muslim fundamentalists and propaganda-spreading homosexuals.
A slow, methodical scramble is on to have the Black Sea resort finished and sparkling before the world turns up for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s $56 billion winter wonderland party.
Whether it is down by the sea or in the mountains, Sochi looks like an Olympics still under construction. Large men with furrowed brows brandishing drills and welders trudging from one building to another outnumber a growing military presence on the streets.
Even in Gorky Village, near the mountain sports venues where the likes of Gina Rinehart and Lachlan Murdoch will stay, the rush is on to have facilities complete.
So will Russia make it?
You sense the Russian people won’t particularly care if they do, and nor will the rest of the world when it starts.
The Olympic venues were completed ahead of schedule.
Notwithstanding complaints and fears about the slopestyle course at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park - something that prompted American snowboarder Shaun White to withdraw from that part of the competition - they have been lauded as world-class.
Any incomplete infrastructure aside from that is merely an inconvenience for those in attendance, and given how poor ticket sales have been because of a spooked international community, nobody is going to care about a group of journalists sleeping on hard sofas.
The athletes are the ones who matter, although US athletes went to bed earlier this week only to awake hours later with water dripping on them from the ceiling above.
Australian snowboarder Torah Bright said there was talk of brown water coming out of the taps. The Australian team doctor has advised athletes to use bottled water, and that includes when they are brushing their teeth.
Bright’s other concern heading into Sochi was security in the wake of two fatal terrorist attacks late last year.
As it stands, the security is far less stifling than that it was in London during the 2012 summer games. Instead, you find metal detectors entering places you’d least expect, such as half completed shopping centres.
Sochi will not be the shiny, pretty Olympics we witnessed in London, but that is okay. (Behind the scenes, London had enough logistical and transport issues, too).
So far, Sochi has been reduced to a social media punchline about adjoining toilets and incomplete hotels, but they are more than that.
As their country was preparing to host the Winter Olympics, two members of the Russian feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot were doing the media rounds in the US.
They were asked about the Olympics.
“It’s not the Olympic Village you see on TV,” Maria Alyokhina, one of the band members, told Billboard. “Look beyond those buildings.”
On dusk on Wednesday, the Olympic torch made its way through Rosa Khutor and locals clogged the streets, waving flags and celebrating the impending arrival of the biggest show on earth.
At the area’s live site, Babushka singers entertained a healthy crowd.
They all seemed to be enjoying themselves, clearly oblivious to the fact some reporters didn’t have a room, let alone a bed.
The story Freestyle sleeping added to Winter Olympic program at Sochi first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.