CICERO – You can't believe everything you hear, but when it comes to the amenities offered for Olympic visitors in Sochi, Russia for the Olympics, believe it.
So says Denise Paleothodoros, Cicero's unofficial representative to the Sochi Games and daughter of Trustee Dennis Raleigh.
Paleothodoros, an executive director of the Colin Harris public relations firm in Chicago, returned Feb.10 from a business trip that took her to the Russian resort town and site of the 2014 Olympics winter games.
The following day, Paleothodoros attended the Town Council meeting Feb. 11 at her father's invitation to give a firsthand account of what things are like in the village that was once the playground for the Communist elite.
"I have to say it was gorgeous," Paleothodoros said. "I did get down to Sochi and found it to be this very quaint, very alive, really beautiful seaside town."
There were some problems, however. Like no heat in the rooms, no hot water, no WiFi, and even the televisions didn't work, Paleothodoros said. There were also no shower curtains, no heat in the lobby area, and problems with the wiring, she reported.
Safes in the rooms were not bolted to the floor, Paleothodoros said. But that turned out to be a good thing. Paleothodoros said hotel security would just walk into a room unannounced late at night, so guests began pushing their safes up against the room's door to keep them out.
Paleothodoros also related a story that happened to a German journalist she met. In his first room he found there were no sheets on the bed. Hotel staff brought him to another room, but again, there were no sheets. This time there was also no furniture, too. Finally, the third room had sheets, furniture and a bed – but an surprising guest – a dog was sleeping in the bed.
However dismal the accommodations were, the Russian people, Paleothodoros said, were very caring and wanted to make it right.
"They were incredibly hospitable, very friendly and very proud," Paleothodoros said. "A lot of them expressed concern about the propaganda related to terror threats and being an unsafe and volatile area. They were also concerned about the perceptions of the anti-gay law in Russia and the perception of their support of human rights."