Sochi Winter Olympics - Fast and Loose
As athletes and fans from around the world descend upon Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics, they are (according to some) sitting atop a site of immeasurable loss and irreversible damage to what was once a unique and pristine ecosystem. They’re unlikely, however, to be aware of it, and authorities will be on their guard to prevent anyone with a megaphone or a picket sign from bringing it to their attention. Those would-be protesters are yet another group being silenced in Russia – where, along with everything else, it’s also a crime to defend the environment.Fast and loose wouldn't work in the U.S.
In the rush to complete what ended up being $51 billion in construction in just five years, Russian’s Olympic Committee has played fast and loose with the environmental standards it once promised to uphold. To take just one example of many, Olympic organizers make much of the fact that Russia’s first green construction standards were implemented for the Games. But at the same time, authorities have also reversed legislation protecting national parks in order to allow for those green buildings to go up. As a result, construction of the Olympic village ended up affecting over 8,000 acres of Sochi National Park, a strictly protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As the global news agency AFP recently reported, the area’s sensitive wetlands, home to 65 species of birds, were buried under six and a half feet of crushed rock, while reptiles and brown bears have reportedly gone missing from surrounding mountain areas. Water pollution in the Mzymta River, once a major spawning site, threatens a fifth of Russia’s Black Sea salmon. And while Olympic organizers boast that they’ve planted 1.5 million new trees — three for every one that was cut down — Suren Gazaryan, a zoologist and environmental activist who was forced to flee the country, said that the scattered planting can in no way make up for what was lost.