UN Ecologists Speak Out Against Sochi Olympic Construction

Grushevy Ridge Western Caucasus.  Source: bigfoto.ruEcologists from the United Nations believe that construction in preparation of the 2014 winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia will have a devastating effect on the local environment. As RIA Novosti reported on June 2nd, a panel UN ecologists consider it imperative that certain Olympic facilities be relocated away from the mountainous Grushevy range.

In releasing their report, the United National Environmental Program has backed the positions of both Greenpeace Russia and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The two eco-watchdogs have mounted a campaign to move both the bobsled complex and the Olympic village away from the undeveloped Ridge. The current construction plan calls for the bobsled track to run along the border of the Caucasus Nature Reserve.

“It is crucial the Russian authorities and IOC [International Olympic Committee] recognize the need to protect Russia’s precious wild habitat and move the Winter Olympics away from the Grushevy Ridge,” said Andrei Petrov of the Greenpeace Russia World Heritage Program. “We are eager to help the Olympic authorities find a site that will not threaten wildlife and promote environmentalism for the Olympic Games in 2014.”

Russian officials have remained cold to the proposals, and to any change of plans for Sochi’s development. “Unfortunately, we have to admit that none of the mentioned organizations has given us a clear response to our proposals,” said Pyotr Gorbunenko, the Executive Director of the WWF.

On April 22nd, Russia’s Natural Resources Minister, Yury Trutnev, pledged that no Olympic sites would be moved in Sochi. “We will solve this problem without relocating facilities,” he told journalists.

A number of Russian civic organizations have petitioned the International Olympic Committee, recommending that the group cancels Sochi’s bid to hold the Olympic Games. They argue that the Committee has ample reason to revoke the bid, and note that the ecological harm done to the fragile Caucasus ecosystem would far outweigh any benefit to the region.

The Olympic preparations have also been mired in controversy for local residents, who say they are being evicted from their homes without adequate compensation.

Further reading:

Kasparov on Sochi Olympics in the Wall Street Journal

Bush to Meet Putin in Sochi as Thousands Face Eviction