The Biggest #SochiProblem? An Entitled Press Corps


The Russians are calling it "zloradstvo," translated as "malicious glee." In German it would be "schadenfreude" (literally, "harm-joy"). In English, it's @SochiProblems.

Since journalists—specifically western journalists—started arriving in the Black Sea coastal city of Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics, they have been filling their Twitter feeds with snark about all the little things that seem to have gone awry in the run-up to the games.

Now famous are the missing doorknobs, open manholes, honey packets with dead bees included and, of course, the peach juice-colored water.

The @SochiProblems Twitter account now boasts 342,000 followers—about 100,000 more than the official @Sochi2014—and while the picture of disarray in the Olympic host city is a subject for bitter mirth among Americans, Brits and Canadians, it's no laughing matter for Russians.

As pointed out by Russia-based New Republic writer Julia Ioffe—who has covered the country for Foreign Policy, The New Yorker, The Daily Beast and others—#SochiProblems represents far more than the inconvenience of apparently very sheltered reporters with an ax to grind: They're actual problems.

"[I]t does seem like the Western press is on the hunt for evidence of how inept and hilarious the Russians are," Ioffe wrote. "There does seem to be something mean-spirited in all of this, as if the Western press came hoping to encounter pillow shortages and rusty water."

That point was cast in fine relief on, where fellow Russia expert Sarah Kaufman took aim specifically at the issue of dirty water: 

"[J]ournalists only have to deal with it for a few weeks. Locals have to deal with it until Russian Railways or Sochi officials decide to build them a new water supply system. Four years ago, they promised this would be done by now, but it is not."

Yeah, that's much less funny that "in Soviet Russia, water pollution drinks you."

They're already calling this Olympics the "viral games," but Sochi may well go down in history as the "vicious games"—at least where the press corps is concerned.