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Plumbing Fun For the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

With the 2014 Winter Olympics poised to start, the assembled media have displayed their fascination with what appears to be some questionable, unsafe and potentially downright unsanitary plumbing available to the athletes and guests of the Winter Games.

Double takes for double toilets

One item that has received a lot of airplay is the presence of double commodes, double urinals and community bathrooms in Sochi. Now, it’s not uncommon to enter a men’s restroom and find a bank of urinals on the wall – with or without privacy partitions. But it’s almost unheard of in the West to find toilets out in the open. So what’s up with that? No plausible official explanation has been offered, but the double/communal toilets have put in appearances at a number of Olympic venues. Popular local theories attribute the phenomenon to waste, fraud, and incompetence, but visitors are finding a number of examples of multiple toilets in buildings not specifically built for the Olympics.

Don’t flush the paper

Reports have also surfaced in Sochi that athletes and visitors are being asked not to flush toilet paper down the loos there. Instead, signs caution the guests to deposit used toilet paper into waste bins in the bathrooms. Though it seems odd to our Western sensibilities, many places around the world don’t have plumbing robust enough to manage lots of toilet paper, and not flushing TP is a common solution.

Don’t drink the water

One Chicago Tribune journalist tweeted a picture of tap water drawn from her hotel bathroom, and let’s just say it’s not pretty. The journalist also reports that she was cautioned not to let the water make skin contact either, which – if you think about it – probably pretty much defeats the purpose of having running water. Horror stories abound about non-working showers, non-working hot water, electrical cords attached to shower fixtures, and missing amenities like shower curtains.

No plumbing at all

Some visitors have noted that some of the urinals in their hotel don’t appear to have plumbing. While the photo evidence suggests this to be the case, waterless, flushless urinals do exist. Waterless, no-flush urinals have been on the market for about 20 years, and resemble conventional urinals, but self-drain through an internal 2″ gravity drain. These urinals eliminate the need for flush valves and water supply lines. Instead, these fixtures use replaceable cartridges that filter tiny solids in urine, block the emission of sewer gases through the fixture and eliminate urine odor. (But we need to point out that the urinals in the picture are the standard, flushable kind.)

Needless to say, plumbing has taken the center stage ahead of the tens of thousands of 2014 Olympic Games visitors.

If you weren’t able to make it to the Sochi games, don’t worry, you’re in good company. We didn’t make the trip either! Our helpful, friendly and knowledgeable Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating staff is ready to make sure your water runs clear, your hot water works, and your plumbing can manage toilet paper like a pro. Plus, you have our word that we’ve never purposely (or inadvertently) installed side-by-side toilets.

Visit Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook, and if you’re in Sochi, send us pictures of your best plumbing finds!