Where’s Johnnie?

An Australian working in Sochi, Johnnie Balfour, posted photos of Sochi two weeks before the games including a video of his living conditions and a report on his struggle to get paid by Sochi officials on his tumblr blog this week. But it would appear he’s been gagged.

The story of Johnnie’s Sochi experience was picked up by hundreds of news sites including Yahoo Canada, the International Business Times in the UK,  Fox Sports and The Australian and his posts were shared thousands of times on social media and discussed in web forums.

“The toilet flushes muddy water, there is no hot water, the shower floor is covered in dirt and mud, there was piss all over the toilet, the water is undrinkable (it’s brown) it’s even sketchy to brush your teeth with it and the idea of having internet in this place is a joke…”
“Nothing is finished here and there is piles of garbage everywhere. Muddy water is pouring off the mountain and flowing through the streets and the coblestone pavers are all lifting up or disappearing into sink holes.
This entire place was built in the last few years, it looks nice at first glance but look a little closer and you can see that it was just thrown together. Most of the buildings are not finished and with only two weeks to go before the games start, they never will be finished. It is pouring rain and close to 10 degrees above zero. The little snow they have is rapidly disappearing.”

The accredited shaping expert from Cronulla in Sydney and now living in Canada built the course at Cypress Mountain for the Vancouver Olympics and had been contracted by the ROC to build a course at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park for the Sochi Winter Olympics that commence on February 7.

“In the six months leading up to this moment, we have been in constant contact with these people, sorting out contracts, methods of payment etc. So far nothing has gone as planned. They have wanted to pay us into Russian bank accounts for a few months now and we have fought them long and hard on this point.

Yes, you read that correctly, they want us to open Russian bank accounts. How do we do this? Well, we don’t, apparently they have already opened accounts for us! How the hell they can open an account in my name without my details or signature is beyond me and sounds very dodgy!

Before we left home we didn’t win the fight about the bank accounts but we did win the fight for them to pay us within ten days of us signing the contract. Well, that has now changed too. They are now telling us that they will pay us ten days AFTER we have gone home.

I have a very strong feeling that we are never going to get paid.

During the meeting I told them on no uncertain terms that what they are trying to do is total bullshit and if they had disclosed this information earlier, I would not have agreed to come here”

Then Johnnie went silent.

His last post saying “I’ve been told to shut up.”

All that remains of his Sochi posts is one picture of him and a colleague with the caption “fun times in Sochi.”

Reddit followers have kept screen snapshots of his original post and @chessninja archived it here.  One reddit commenter posted the following:

Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 9.52.04 AM

If this is true (and neither his job loss or safety threats have been confirmed as yet) then there’s a big difference between losing your job for dissing your employers/clients online and having your safety threatened.

Was Johnnie brave and courageous or naive for posting his experience? Do you think Sochi will be a success and what are your concerns, if any?

Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.


  1. He was honest and did what a good journalist would do. However as a contractor he was naive … did he think the officials would stand for that? But if he has gone home, what does that mean for the Sochi course?

  2. As someone who knows johnnie personally all I can say is he is safe at home with his family, and the course will be completed and awesome in time for the games, his own words. I’m sure he will post more about his experience in Sochi after the games. Frankly an Olympic committee regardless of country should not change a contract once it’s been signed.


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