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4 Ways the Sochi Olympics Are an Environmental Disaster

4 Ways the Sochi Olympics Are an Environmental Disaster

You may see a lot of gold, silver and bronze at the Olympics, but one color you definitely won’t see much of in Sochi is green. Years ago, Russia won its Olympic bid in large part by pledging to host the most environmentally friendly Games ever. Now, however, it’s clear that Sochi did not fulfill these promises and, in fact, has perpetrated an ecological nightmare.

Here are four reasons even casual environmentalists will resent Sochi’s actions:

1. Illegally Dumping Waste

So much for Sochi’s “zero waste” claims: the Associated Press has proven Russia’s vow to use only renewable materials in their construction efforts and not dump waste false. Though the nation tried to hide this dumping, the press agency found literal tons of waste being dumped unsafely in a protected area.

Since the illicit spot was discovered, Russian officials blamed it on a hired company’s “error.” Still, no effort has been made to remove the dangerous waste from where it sits.

 

2. Damaged Water Supply

While not following through on the pledge to not dump is bad, it wouldn’t be half as awful if only they had dumped that industrial waste in actual wasteland. In a misguided attempt to hide their dumping, Russia wound up putting this hazardous material in a “water protected zone,” thereby putting Sochi’s drinking water at risk.

Whether that waste actually did any damage to the city’s water supply is uncertain, but one thing is definite: the water has been tainted by something. One journalist took photos of the yellow water that came out of her sink. Not only was she warned not to drink the water, locals advised that she not even touch the water because it “contains something very dangerous.”

 

3. Destroying National Parks

In order to make room for the various Olympic facilities and accommodations, Sochi needed to clear space in natural areas that should have been off-limits. More than 8,000 acres of Sochi National Park were cleared after politicians reversed Russia’s laws protecting national parks so that construction could occur.

As a result, rare wetlands were buried in rubble. The inhabiting species of birds, bears and reptiles have fled to unknown locations in search of a new home. Though Russia seems to be following through on its plan to plant three trees for every one it chops down for the Olympics, environmentalists are not pleased with how it is being implemented. By scattering these new trees in various places, Russia is not addressing the problem of deforestation or reestablishing habitats for the creatures that have been displaced.

 

4. Jailing Environmental Activists

Worse yet, Russia has made it clear that anyone who speaks out against all of these environmental assaults will feel its wrath. Though the effort to crack down on gay rights protesters has received most of the media attention, Putin’s posse has also aggressively pursued environmental activists to prevent any demonstrations that could “interrupt” the Games.

Yevgeny Vitishko, one of Sochi’s most prominent eco-activists in recent years, has been arrested on trumped up charges. Just before the Olympics, Vitishko was arrested for “swearing in public” and will be kept in jail on the charge for more than two weeks. It’s clear that Russia is inventing a way to keep Vitishko behind bars to prevent him from discussing these issues during the actual Olympics. Vitishko is joined in prison by fellow green protestor Igor Kharchenko, who was also mysteriously arrested for nebulous reasons just before the Games.

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117 comments

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12:11AM PST on Feb 19, 2014

Olympics is supposed to be a celebration on sportsmanship, team spirit & gives honors to those who excel in their field. It is not meant to destroy the planet. >

6:31PM PST on Feb 16, 2014

Why not make the Olympics smaller, or cancel them all together since it appears that countries use them as an excuse to do worse than usual things to the land, people and animals for the sake of making money for rich sponser corporations and countries where they're held ? Enough is enough, and if there's not more responsible people who know that life in general, mundane as it often is, is still far more important than making money and winning acheivement awards, then I'm for dumping the whole business.

7:15AM PST on Feb 14, 2014

ty

11:50AM PST on Feb 13, 2014

I would hope each Olympics would advance not only sports but the world condition. Apparently that is not the case. The Olympic Committee needs to choose their venues more carefully. This has not been a very good showing.

6:44AM PST on Feb 13, 2014

Just what I was about to say Dianne M - too right!!!!

6:35AM PST on Feb 13, 2014

Reason # 5... The contract killing of thousands of dogs to "clean up" the streets!!
The more I hear the more disgusted I am of this country!

6:21AM PST on Feb 13, 2014

I read with dismay the attempts by many to drag other countries, notably the US (and we sure as hell have more than enough of our OWN problems) and others, even Canada (if you guys think Harper is bad, you have no idea what truly bad really is) into the fray and point at them

Take the comparrisons of Russia to the US on environmental issues. Does Russia have an EPA, even one that has been weakened like here in the US? No.

While anyone can point to many eco disasters or plain stupidity in the US, we can't really do that in Russia. Why? Reporters tend to die when they go against the "Petite Colonel" with no shirt. This is not an anti Russian thing, this is a country with nukes beiung taken to the brink by a madman and unlike any resemblence to the US under Bush 43, Putin is finding ways to keep himself in power

So if you want to bash the US or other countries for not being 100% perfect, fine, go ahead. That's like pointing out the dad who yells or maybe even uses corporal punishment on his kids to control them vs a dad who'll send them off to the salt mines, if not even worse places and let them die

5:52AM PST on Feb 13, 2014

I wonder whether the US is more ecological, or whether it's the pot calling the kettle black.

5:50AM PST on Feb 13, 2014

Thank you

5:50AM PST on Feb 13, 2014

thank you

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Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
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