The International Broadcast Center in Sochi is a cavernous place where halls stretch on forever, where one can walk miles in the building in a single day. It has to be big enough to hold 8,000 journalists.
We nod as we pass each other in hallways, but now some of us are doing more than nodding. We are scanning our fellow journalists head to toe — scanning to see if they are wearing our clothes.
That is because something has gone deeply and terribly awry in the basement of the IBC.
That is where the laundry service is located. It’s in a hallway outfitted with the sort of creature comfort stores that help us survive a month away from home.
Along with a McDonald’s, a general store, a souvenir shop, a small grocery, a post office, and a bank, is a laundry service.
Here’s the problem. After you drop off your clothes to the non english speaking women at the laundry, you don’t get them back.
Well, you’ll get some of them back, along with someone else’s clothes. You’ll get your shirts but not any of your underwear. You’ll get someone else’s underwear. You will get back five pair of socks that are ten mismatched socks paired up — and on a good day, some of the socks may actually be yours.
Incredibly frustrated journalists stand in the hour long line(which we don’t have time to do because we’re kind of busy covering The Olympics),waiting their turn to demand their boxers back, not the tighty whiteys they’re clutching in the plastic bag.
The women who work the laundry store have two english sentences they’ve memorized, and they use them all day. “Come back tomorrow,” and “Is it yours?”
The second line has become a favorite, because they will proffer a plastic wrapped package to you, extending it like a gift. “Is it yours?” they will ask. Sometimes this will go on with more than a dozen random plastic packages, each bulging with someone else’s delicates.
Three weeks in, hope has died. We are the six year old on Christmas morning who has wised up and realized there’s no Baby Alive in that wrapping. Oh no, it’s socks and underwear that have been worn by some 45 year old dude from Korea, and maybe that dude from Korea has been offered my smart wool socks and my $14 dollar a pair underwear.
Our team leader Tim Dietz is missing so much clothing he’s become the poster child for laundry loss. He now takes photos of his clothes before he takes them to the laundry ladies, so he can show them photos of what he’s missing. It hasn’t worked. He has the saddest camera roll at the OIympics — one that is filled with pictures of clothes that have vanished into the IBC.
I saw what was happening to all of my colleagues and started hand washing my clothes in my hotel room sink that has no working stopper. I now have a pulled muscle in my wrist from trying to wring out jeans.
Of all the things I worried about before these olympics, this wasn’t one of them.
Every time I walk the hallways, I half expect to see Tim wrestling a button down shirt off another guy. Of course it hasn’t happened. But we have seven days to go, more days than there are shirts. There’s still time.