Athletes trapped in bathrooms. Hotel rooms still under construction. Clowns wandering the streets.
Alexander Broad is doing his best to document everything wrong and weird at the Winter Games with Twitter’s latest satire-of-the-moment account, @SochiProblems.
The Internet sensation, which began Tuesday, had already amassed over 331,000 followers by Sunday.
Broad hoped for at most 30 followers. By Wednesday morning he had 11,000 and a spotlight he wasn’t expecting.
“Never in a million years. I made it as a joke. The entire idea of this came as a joke, something to laugh at,” says the Pickering, Ont., native.
The idea came to Broad on Tuesday morning as he sat in a journalism class at Toronto’s Centennial College while looking for breaking news. By then Canadian and international journalists were arriving in Sochi, Russia to find facilities still under construction, and pictures of the debacle were trending on Twitter.
Broad had his idea. Now he needed a moniker.
Before the class, Broad spilt Tim Hortons coffee on a plaid jacket, which seemed like a uniquely Canadian problem to the 20-year-old. Now he was searching for what there was to worry about in Sochi.
“From there on it just kind of grew. It’s sprouted into this giant thing,” he says.
The word giant doesn’t do Broad’s popularity justice — @SochiProblems has more followers than either the official Sochi Games profile or the Canadian Olympic team’s account, and has also caught the attention of American media such as The Washington Post, USA Today and ABC.
Satirical accounts are the norm on Twitter. Fake feeds for celebrities, politicians and fictional characters proliferate on the social media website, even if many only last as long as the zeitgeist they’ve captured allows them to remain relevant.
That’s got Broad under pressure to watch the Olympics all the time for material.
“I think the biggest thing, I feel like it’s just like I’ve got to stay alert to everything a lot more,” he says, adding he draws the line at staying up through the night.
Broad’s favourite Olympic mishap so far was a series of tweets from a Canadian journalist who arrived at his hotel room late at night only to find the locks had been changed.
“I was just sitting on my couch reading them and absolutely, I had tears flowing from my eyes,” he said. “I was laughing quite hard. I don’t know why it triggered that but I thought it was quite funny.”
Broad was quickly outed as the mind behind @SochiProblems. All the popularity means he is taking Twitter more seriously than his readers might know.
After realizing one of the pictures he posted wasn’t taken at Sochi, Broad tweeted a correction and now does his best to verify all his material is real.
Now he’s wondering if a Twitter account started as a joke should become about something more.
“The whole idea of this entire account was a satire,” he said. “I think that’s what a lot of people are calling it. I made the entire thing out of a joke, and I have tweeted things that have … some political-ish type things.
“But a lot of the things I’ve tweeted there’s a lot of humour in it as well. So I’m still not entirely sure.”
— Follow (at)tyler—harper on Twitter.