7) Hospitality Classes
There are a lot of stereotypes of Russians but welcoming, warmth and kindness aren’t among them. Countries like Italy, France and Spain are well versed in looking after and ingratiating tourists. Russia is not. You have to apply for visas to enter the country and it’s certainly not on most people’s wish list of places to holiday.
To attempt a change in the public image of the Russian people, new classes in hospitality have begun for people working at the Games and the venues and hotels around them.
In these classes they are taught things like how to smile at strangers, maintain eye contact and focus on customer service rather than hotel rules. They use role plays of different situations that feature difficult guests, drunk guests or situations where the visitor asks for something that’s impossible.
It’s true that the Russian’s are perceived as cold, hard and unsmiling, but I wonder how much impact these courses will really have? Especially with all the other crazy stuff going on.
So all in all the Games are shrouded with persecution, threats of violence, corruption and stereotypes. And this list isn’t exhaustive either, there are locals who have been made homeless to make way for the Olympics, other residents who have been harassed by police. People whose houses have been left in tatters thanks to scrappy building work in the area, environmental destruction, the list goes on.
One villager reported that he now had to show official documents just to visit his neighbour thanks to the Draconian security measures in his once sleepy village. It’s not exactly the Olympic spirit they were hoping for.
I imagine that most people in Russia will be glad when it’s all over and they will join the rest of the world in breathing a sigh of relief if there isn’t any violence. I’ll leave you with a quote from the late Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin:
“We meant to do better, but it came out as always.”
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