PtG Article 29.09.2006

Greenpeace tries to stop Olympic constructions in Sochi

The environmental organisation Greenpeace has filed a suit with Russia’s Supreme Court to block the construction of sporting facilities and infrastructure around the city of Sochi that is bidding to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. Greenpeace wants to protect unique Alpine forest in the Western Caucasus which has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1999.

In a press release Greenpeace says that construction of sports facilities has already started in the Sochi national park even though the Russian state environmental impact assessment committee has not approved of the plans.

“Construction of most Olympic facilities in Sochi are carried out by the large Russian corporations Gazprom and Interros. They attempt to evade the law and find an understanding with the Sochi city administration, the authorities of the Krasnoyarsk Krai, and the federal bodies,” the press release states.

The Sochi national park is one of the few large mountain ranges in Europe that has not experienced significant human impact. Its pastures have only been grazed by wild animals, many of which are unique to the region. The area is also home to 300 endemic plant species, 160 of which are endangered.

According to the British newspaper The Independent, a quarter of the national park has been earmarked for development. Construction of one of several ski resorts has begun, and a high speed rail link, a hydrological power station and an Olympic Village are also planned.

The organisers of Russia’s bid to host the 2014 Winter Games promise that construction of venues in and around Sochi will be environmentally sound. The bid group says that the Russian Ministry of National Resources works closely with various NGOs and is a key member of the bid’s venue development team, providing expert guidance.

In July 2007 the IOC will decide which city will be allowed to host the 2014 Winter Games. Sochi is up against Salzburg in Austria and PyeongChang in Korea.