There's a scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy and her traveling companions stumble upon a sign at the edge of the Haunted Forest that reads "I'd Turn Back If I Were You." Of course they pay no heed and we all know where the story goes from there.
Well, I gotta admit that I'm starting to feel a little like Dorothy, with a little Cowardly Lion thrown in for good measure, and I haven't even reached Oz yet.
Sitting in the Frankfurt Airport in the early stages of an 11-hour layover, I was killing time by reading all the horror stories about what's going on in Sochi, my eventual destination, with the final preparation for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games that begin on Thursday. I have to be honest that it’s a little concerning, the stuff that I’m seeing.
As reporters continue to arrive and attempt to check into their hotels, they are finding things in various stages of disrepair. One CNN editor showed up and found that only one of the 11 rooms he booked -- and paid for in advance -- was ready. That's a long way to go to be in a state of temporary homelessness.
Among the lucky ones who do have rooms, many are reporting various issues, such as heaters and air conditioners, a must at these Winter Olympics, that have been installed but not connected. Another reporter said that when he tried to turn on the brand new television he discovered that his room didn't have any outlets to plug it into. Some have no hot water, or running water for that matter, or Internet services that were long ago promised and paid for. Others are staying in high rises with no working elevators.
Hey, $51 billion doesn't buy what it used to.
One reporter said she received a rather ominous warning from the building manager that said, "do not use water on your face because it contains something very dangerous." Just exactly what that is would require a KGB security clearance to find out.
My only hope is that these are isolated incidents and that for every reporter who has rust-colored water coming out of her bathroom faucet, there are hundreds of happy journalists (an oxymoron on par with jumbo shrimp) staying and working in and around Sochi.
Stories of Olympic preparations coming down to the wire are nothing new. I’m sure the Greeks weren’t ready when they hosted the first Olympic Games back in the 1890s, but they didn’t have someone Tweeting out status reports every half hour.
As organizers try to play beat the clock before the Games start on Friday, I can't help but think of something that USOC veteran PR guy extraordinaire Bob Condron once told me. The Olympics are a lot like a dinner party. Nobody ever sees the hostess with her hair up in curlers as she's vacuuming the living room 5 minutes before the first guests arrive.
If the Games go off without a hitch and spectators and television viewers are treated to amazing feats of athleticism all this will soon be construction dust in the wind and quickly forgotten.
As the old saying goes, “Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see.” Hopefully in a few hours we’ll be able to see for ourselves what is going on in and around Sochi.
Once we clear customs and hopefully retrieve our bags then we can make our way to our hotel, which we have also paid for in full many months ago. But this is the land of the double bookings so you never know.
It's supposedly a nice hotel, only a short commute to the area that organizers call the Coastal Cluster, the home to the five ice events and the stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies.
But if they don't get their act together in world record time, it may be called a cluster of another kind.