Photo of two toilets sharing stall at Sochi causes social media storm

Twitter users have poked fun at the toilets. (AP Photo/Steve Rosenberg, BBC)

The photo is just too easy to make fun of.

BBC Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg recently tweeted a photo from inside a bathroom at the Sochi Olympics' Biathalon Centre.

For an event with an estimated $50-billion budget — the most expensive Olympics in history — you'd think contractors would be able to build separate stalls.

The photo of the twin toilets went viral.

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Russia's opposition leader retweeted the photo, questioning Olympic spending, while Russian political activist and chess champion Gary Kasparov joked that the close quarters "will create a sense of community."

People from around the world joined the fun. Storify compiled a series of them here.

Some couldn't resist bringing up gay rights:

"This is how they understand the needs of sexual minorities," one Twitter user quipped.

Another worried that they'd "get stage fright."

Someone else pointed out a logistical issue: "Tear off some paper before you sit down."

Apparently communal toilets aren't unheard of in Russia. Rosenberg followed up his double toilet tweet with one from Kazan University: an open room filled with porcelain thrones.

The viral photo inspired Russian journalist Nikita Likhachev to compile photos in a blog post that revealed similar facilities in other parts of the country.

After the social media buzz about Sochi's "double toilets," Reuters provided an updated photo of the much-tweeted-about space: three drawer units have replaced the toilets. The toilet-paper dispenser remains. No further details about the stall makeover have been made available.

Hey, where did those toilets go? REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk

"The change to the stall, as well as the markings on the wall that appear to be remnants of a divider, might suggest that the original photo was taken after the removal of a divider and in the midst of the room being converted from a bathroom to something else," speculated Business Insider's Cork Gaines.

"However, it is also possible that the toilets were removed in response to the original photo going viral."

All bathroom humour aside, there have been serious concerns about government waste leading up the Olympics. Some citizens complain that their living conditions are worsening — thousands of people lost their homes to make way for Olympic construction — as the government focuses solely on creating an impressive welcome to Sochi's international guests.

"It's a parallel universe that locals to a great extent have no access to," said Olga Beskova, editor of the local website Sochinskiye Novosti, or Sochi News. "It has very little to do with how Sochi lives every day. So far, city streets are all dug up, residents have a lot of problems, and it's hard to see a happy ending after all of this construction."

Sure, we may laugh at a double toilet, but some Sochi residents don't have indoor plumbing at all.

"You have to put on rubber boots if you want to go to the toilet," long-time resident Vladimir Zarytovsky, 56, said, pointing to water marks crawling up the walls of his wooden outhouse. Since a road for the Olympics was built nearby, his home and yard have become prone to flooding.

"I watch Channel One and get the feeling that I am living in paradise," he added. "It's disgusting to hear the governor and the mayor singing songs to Putin, telling him that everything is fabulous."

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