When a BBC reporter named Steve Rosenberg tweeted a photo of two toilets in one stall at the cross-country skiing and biathlon center for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, it quickly went viral.
The photo in question shows two toilets side-by-side, seemingly with only a single roll of toilet paper to share between the two. However, it was later revealed that the second roll of tissue had been cut out of the picture and there was actually what appeared to be a divider between the two toilets which had been removed.
The double toilet photo has garnered quite a bit of good-natured ribbing around the Internet, including in Russia, with Russians joking that the twin facilities were made for President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. One blogger even Photoshopped a framed photo of the two political leaders onto the wall above the two toilets.
Making jest of the tightened security surrounding the Sochi Olympic games, others have joked that the second toilet has been provided for a Russian security officer.
Sources say that while twin toilets are uncommon in Russia, they do occasionally make appearances. And, as proof, various users of social media have indeed posted photos of similar toilets located in a cafe as well as a courthouse. In addition, Vasily Konov, the editor of the state-run R-Sport news agency confirmed that such toilets are a standard offering in many Russian sports stadiums. Konov further tweeted about the photo asking, “Why are the BBC folks scaring us? This is what the gents look like at football stadiums in Russia.”
While many have made light of the viral photo, others have pointed to it as yet another sign of waste and corruption involved in the preparations for the Olympic games. These critics point out that, at a cost of about $50 billion, the Sochi games are almost 20 percent more costly than the 2008 Olympics held in Beijing. In addition, the planners of the Sochi Olympics went $39 billion over budget by including such projects as a 31-mile highway and train line at a cost of $8.7 billion.
While the allegations of waste leveled by detractors may or may not be true, it was Russian blogger Sergei Nikita who revealed the likely truth behind the double toilets in a single stall. When he visited the restroom a few days later to see the site of the photo for himself, the toilets had been switched out for a row of filing cabinets, revealing, in his estimation, that the controversial photo had simply been snapped when the facilities were undergoing some renovations. In fact, he found upon further investigation that there had been a request for that particular stall as well as others to be disassembled and the toilets removed so that remodeling could occur. The Sochi Olympics organizers have not commented, however, so there is not yet any official confirmation available for Nikita’s story.
The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic games are scheduled to run from February 7 to 23.
By Nancy Schimelpfening