The worst press conference moderator in years, a press centre where the security level changes every day, a Swedish delegation that was only allowed a 5 minutes press conference and a hotel which thinks my boyfriend hired me for one night that pretty much describes my fifth day.
Let’s start with the moderator/host of the press conferences. He started out quite ok, but the past couple of days he has become quite a hot topic. He is shouting at people, if someone is a slow speaker he tells them to hurry up, he ends press conferences earlier with the message that he wants to go to lunch, gets annoyed at the fact that quite a lot of people there doesn’t speak a word of Russian – and just in general his constant insults has caused a dramatic drop in people who dares to ask a question. People are still attending the press conferences, but it appears like most only goes to take pictures and in the hope that free promo materials will be handed out. It is no longer uncommon to see press conferences with only one question being asked – we have even seen a few with no questions at all! It is a shame for the artists, but the biggest blame can, without doubt, be put on the moderator. The number of people not complaining about him is very limited.
The Swedish press conference Thursday only lasted 5 minutes despite there, for a change, being enough people to ask questions. The reason was that the Swedish delegation was being held up after their rehearsal. As it was by the broadcaster, Channel One, they assumed that it was one of those things they had to do and that the press conference just would be delayed. Channel One however never gave any notice to the press conference hall and therefore the Swedish press conference ended up being shortened to only five minutes. I don’t think it is needed to add that the Swedes were quite annoyed.
Remember that I yesterday mentioned this new security toy the Russians have installed for badge scanning? Well, they break down quite frequently and one seems to be permanently out of use now after just one day. I can accept that you check in and out at the entrance, but for every room? No, that is simply too much and the benefits just doesn’t match up against the complications.
The hotel here generally has quite a high security level. You have to show a little document saying that you are staying at this hotel to enter the lifts. You also have to show it to enter the breakfast area. Ok, the last thing is quite normal, I guess, but they are so strict on it here that if you just take the lift down to get to the cash machine in the lobby and then take the lift up again two minutes later you have to show the documentation again – even if the security guy do admit that of course he do remember that you just came down two minutes ago! In Russia they go by the book and if his job description says that he should check everyone who enters the lift area then he is going to check every time – also if it was just two minutes ago he last checked you. In the press centre they work pretty much by the same philosophy so people from other countries, in particular Western countries, can have quite some problems adopting the Russian culture.
This high security level at the hotel suffered quite a damage Thursday evening where we had gone home from the press centre, been to the room with our bags, went down to eat in the restaurant – quite a normal evening until we wanted to get back up to our room and was stopped at the lift. Apparently the piece of documentation for our stay which was all in Russian btw wasn’t valid. My boyfriend could get up, but I couldn’t. When we went to the information desk to report the problem it turned out that they suddenly had my boyfriend registered to stay here alone! I was nowhere mentioned in the hotel’s system. Now we don’t understand Russian so we didn’t know if we were both included on that documentation, but since we got each our key to the room when we checked in and haven’t experienced any problems before when they have seen the card, we didn’t know anything was wrong. But in order for me to get back up to our hotel room this evening I needed to check in – and as my passport was in the room I wasn’t allowed to go up and get it, but had to let my boyfriend do so. Once he got it and we could check me into the system they would only allow me to check in for one night – if my boyfriend decides to keep me for the rest of the stay we can then check that in Friday morning. Anyone who knows me can imagine how angry I must have been…. me, a girl businessmen bring to their hotel room for one night? No, at that point I really lost everything for the Russians. They have seen us arriving to the hotel together, been for breakfast together, been going out together in the morning and coming back together in the evening – and suddenly I am a simple prostituted!
Speaking of prostitution then it is quite visible at the hotel. The officials “hotel girls” are sitting in a group of often 4-8 girls. They are located at the front table of a restaurant, not eating or drinking anything, just freshens up their make-up and brush their hair a couple of times per hour. They are quite petite, typical 1.65 m tall, but not more than 40-45 kg. From time to time they communicate a bit with the restaurant owner and is otherwise just sitting there looking pretty and giving a potential customer the option of picking the one he likes best for that night. Yes, these things also happen elsewhere, but I am use to it being a lot more discreet than and not as obvious as it is here. I feel a bit weird eating at a table next to one with a group of these girls. Had it been a low budget hotel in a dark alley I might have been better prepared for it… and I am glad that I am not one of those girls despite what the hotel thinks!