SOCHI, Russia—Rooms without doorknobs, locks or heat, dysfunctional toilets, surprise early-morning fire alarms and packs of stray dogs: These are the initial images of the 2014 Winter Olympics that foreign journalists have blasted around the world from their officially assigned hotels—and the wave of criticism has rankled Russian officials.
the deputy prime minister responsible for the Olympic preparations, seemed to reflect the view held among many Russian officials that some Western visitors are deliberately trying to sabotage Sochi’s big debut out of bias against Russia. "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," he said. An aide then pulled a reporter away before Mr. Kozak could be questioned further on surveillance in hotel rooms. "We’re doing a tour of the media center," the aide said.
A spokesman for Mr. Kozak later on Thursday said there is absolutely no surveillance in hotel rooms or bathrooms occupied by guests. He said there was surveillance on premises during construction and cleaning of Sochi’s venues and hotels and that is likely what Mr. Kozak was referencing. A senior official at a company that built a number of the hotels also said there is no such surveillance in rooms occupied by guests.
Mr. Kozak toured the giant, gleaming new media center Thursday morning, marveling at the huge workspace built specially for the thousands of journalists who have come from around the world to cover the Games.
Asked about the widely reported problems with hotel rooms not being ready for guests, he was dismissive. "We’ve put 100,000 guests in rooms and only gotten 103 registered complaints and every one of those is being taken care of," he said. (It wasn’t clear what Mr. Kozak was counting as a registered complaint.)
In a news conference, Mr. Kozak said he had no "claims against Western or Russian journalists who are doing their jobs." Most of the critical views of the accommodations or preparations amount to "small imperfections in the Olympic facilities and tourist infrastructure," Mr. Kozak said, noting that it wasn’t long ago that the entire Olympic area was an "open field."
"The realization of such a project is an enormous victory for the entire country," he said. "As we say in Russia, victors don’t get blamed."
president of the national rail operator Russian Railways, which built much of the infrastructure for the Games, including subcontracting on some accommodations that weren’t completed on time, attacked Western coverage as biased in a blog Thursday.