SOCHI – The run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games was supposed to be all about the important issues of gay rights and security, freedom and safety. But then members of the news media arrived and began talking about shower curtains, waste baskets and the color of the water coming out of the faucet.
Those conversations are not inappropriate. There most definitely are serious infrastructure problems at these Olympics, with the Russians appearing to be completely overwhelmed by the monumental task of building an entire Olympic Games from scratch -- every venue, village and road -- in less than seven years.
Yet they are taking all the oxygen out of the room before Thursday's start of competition and Friday's opening ceremony, making it all the more difficult for the real issues of these Games to bubble to the surface.
It's almost as if Russian President Vladimir Putin planned the whole thing, stealing the toilet paper and the light bulbs and the shower curtains himself, just to distract reporters from the stories that worry him far more:
The strident condemnation of his anti-gay propaganda law; the very real concerns about terrorism in a seriously troubled part of the world; and the stunning, $50-billion price tag for these Games – more than all the other Winter Olympics combined.
Yes, Putin did it. That would explain everything.
Seriously, we're all easily distracted these days, latching onto the newest, the weirdest and the craziest stories on our phones. Sochi's slapdash infrastructure fits the bill, with the best messenger ever: the world's sports journalists.
It used to be that no one wanted to hear reporters whine about their living conditions when they were being paid to go halfway around the world to cover the best sporting event on earth. But with every photo, tweet and hashtag, the story has become so widespread that it's guaranteed to be a lasting footnote of the Sochi Games, come what may.
Soon enough, however, the news media will move on to Putin, to his law, to his security and to his Olympics.