Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Ah, the Olympics.  I confess to enjoying the view, but unfortunately the Olympic view is  anything but helpful to the environment. The winter games, especially look beautiful, but think about it for a minute.  What happens when, as in Russia, they decide they just have to build a whole new city landscape to host them.  Try illegal landfills and trashed ecosystems.  Try jail...

Grist writes about the Sochi games:

Not only is this shaping up to be the most expensive Olympics in the history of the games, with $51 billion of new development, it is also arguably one of the most destructive. Five thousand acres of pristine forests have been felled, while wetlands that served as important stopovers for migrating birds have been filled in. Landslides and waste dumping threaten the watershed, which feeds into the Black Sea. Building within national parks in Russia used to be limited, but that regulation was reversed in order to make way for some games facilities, hotels, and roads. Some observers note that the Olympics have provided an opportunity for developers to cash in on what they hope will be a profitable tourist destination in the future.

The construction projects have also left local Sochi-ers in the lurch, facing frequent power shortages, land subsidence, flooding, and widespread pollution. 


The Winter Games have led to wrecked habitat, demolished forests polluted water reservoirs,destroyed wildlife populations and more.   The Mzymta, Sochi's largest river, which flows from a lake in a Caucasus reserve down to the Black Sea, has been profaned.  Even Yahoo Sports noticed:

A road and a railway were built along its undeveloped left bank, connecting Sochi's airport with Olympic skiing venues upstream.

Of the damage done to Sochi's wilderness, "the river is the biggest shame," said Igor Chestin, head of WWF in Russia.

The river is the spawning site of one-fifth of Russia's valuable Black Sea salmon.

"Its value as a fishery has been lost due to the change of the shape of the river, and years of pollution" since Sochi was picked as the 2014 Winter Olympics host in 2007, Chestin said. 

Eccorazzi picks it up:

In a interview with TIMESuren Gazaryan, a zoologist and member of the environmental campaign group, Environmental Watch of the North Caucasus (EWNC), said that “Sochiorganizers have failed on all their green promises.” Gazaryan explains, that the “construction process for the Games has been hugely damaging for the region. He and the ENWC have documented evidence of illegal waste dumping, construction that has blocked the migration routes of animals such as the brown bear, limited access to drinking water for locals and a generally decreased quality of life for many in the city of Sochi.”

The damage done to the Mzymta, Sochi’s largest river, which flows from a lake in a Caucasus reserve down to the Black Sea is “the biggest shame,” said Igor Chestin, head of the Russian chapter, of the World Wildlife Federation (WWF). The river was the spawning site of many Black Sea salmon, which have now disappeared, or died as a result of water contamination.

“The most dangerous and important part of the damage is the biodiversity lost in the area,” says Gazaryan. “Parts of the national park have been completely destroyed. This area was the most diverse in terms of plant and animal life in Russia.” Official reports by Sochi National Park show that brown bears, and various reptiles, can no longer be found in the area.

In an attempt to try and compensate for the destruction of the land, and the homes of its wildlife, Russia created an Ornithological Park, and planted 1.5 million new trees – three for every one that was cut down in the Sochi National Park, to make way for Olympic sites. Gazaryan says that much of the planting programme had been “pointless.” “The planting could never substitute for the loss of established forest, which is a complex ecosystem,” says Gazaryan. “[T]hese are ecosystems, not a Lego set that you can take apart and then rebuild somewhere else.”

“It’s a profanation,” said Vladimir Zubakin, president of the Russian Bird Union (RBUC), of the human made park. The wetlands were a paradise for up to 65 species of birds, but now the former wetlands lie buried under two metres (6.5 feet) of crushed rock. “They have been lost to the Olympic steamroller,” said Zubakin. “They say it looks pretty now, but birds actually prefer mud.”

I can't go on.

Russia is not interested in hearing about any of this. Well, let's not blame all of Russia, let's blame the Putin government and all of his Big Capital buddies.

The following is from Generation Progress.


The 2014 Winter Olympic Games began with fanfare and fireworks, but the impacts of two weeks of sports competitions will leave their mark for years to comeand not in an inspiring way.
In the bid for the Olympics, Russia had promised to put on a “zero waste” show and to use the greenest building techniques to date for construction, but these promises have already fallen harder than a ski-jumper missing the landing. Environmentalists, NGO’s, and human rights activists are compiling a picture of the real devastation caused by the Russian Winter Olympics.
First, Sochi is the location of a UNESCO World Heritage site and Sochi National Park, where 8,750 acres of land were cleared to make room for the Games. Olympic contractors promised to plant three trees for every one cut down in the national park, which came out to 1.5 million new trees. But environmentalists point out that planting new trees does not replace the ecosystem value, which contributed to the livelihoods of brown bears, reptiles, and the Black Sea salmon; all species that have suffered population loss or now regionally extinct.
Another ecosystem bulldozed over for Games venues was a sensitive wetlands, the winter home to the vulnerable Dalmatian pelican and other bird species. In its place, the government created the “Ornithological Park,” planted with trees and artificial ponds as a replacement home for the displaced faunanone of which can be found in the new park.
“The most dangerous and important part of the damage is the biodiversity lost in the area,” zoologist Suren Gazaryan told TIMEMagazine. “Parts of the national park have been completely destroyed. This area was the most diverse in terms of plant and animal life in Russia.”
Gazaryan is a member of the Environmental Watch of the North Caucasus (EWNC), an environmental activist group, who is now living in exile in Estonia to escape criminal charges for his human rights works.
Another EWNC activist, Yevgeny Vitishko, was planning to deliver an environmental impact report of the Winter Games but was jailed after being charged for swearing in public. EWNC members have been been charged and jailed consistently for random criminal charges.
The Sochi Olympics are a demonstration on how environmental and human rights issues easily intersect.
The Humans Rights Watch announced that the Olympic construction has cut off a Russian village from a fresh water source for more than five years, and a new road with no exit or entry ramps has completely cut the village off from public transportation.
“The Russian government is building the most expensive Olympics in history, but many Sochi residents have paid a very high personal price for these games,” Human Rights Watch’s Jane Buchanan said. “The authorities cut Akhshtyr’s villagers off from basic services and have done woefully little to restore them.”
EWNC and other environmental groups have also documented illegal waste dumping and construction blocking animal migration routes, and deforestation has increased the risk of avalanches, mudslides, and landslides on the mountain ridges.
Alexandra Branscombe is a reporter with Generation Progress. Follow her on Twitter @alibranscombe.

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