UN joins environmental calls for Russia to move Olympic site

Greenpeace warns Olympic Village threatens rare and endangered species

Press release - 2 June, 2008
Greenpeace welcomes the United Nations Environment Programme’s criticism of plans to build 2014 Winter Olympics facilities on a site critical to rare and endangered species.

The site, Grushevy Ridge, is a conservation border area legally protected from being built on because of its importance to wildlife and nature. Greenpeace Russia is calling on the Sochi-2014 organising committee, state corporation Olympstroy, which is in charge of constructing the venues and related infrastructure, and the International Olympic Committee to build the Games' Olympic Village and luge-bobsleigh route in an area not under threat.

In its Sochi  2014 - UNEP Mission Report, released today, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (1) announced it "encourage[s] the partners in the Russian Federation and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to look into the suitability of alternative locations. Our view is that the currently planned location may compromise other efforts to ensure the Games are environmentally friendly".

The Grushevy Ridge is important for a number of rare and endangered species, among which are the West Caucasian chamois and West Caucasian tur, listed as endangered on the 2007 International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species (2). The site borders the Western Caucasus UNESCO World Heritage Site, including the Caucasus State Biosphere Nature Reserve.

 "It is crucial the Russian authorities and IOC recognise the need to protect Russia's precious wild habitat and move the Winter Olympics away from the Grushevy Ridge. 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," Andrey Petrov, Greenpeace Russia World Heritage Program Coordinator says.

Greenpeace Russia, WWF-Russia and Transparent World, a non-commercial partnership, have proposed 16 alternative sites for the Olympic Village and luge-bobsleigh route. All conform to the International Luge and International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federations' requirements, and would not damage the environment.

Despite sending details of alternative sites to the Sochi-2014 Organising Committee on 22 February, the Committee failed to forward them to the respective sporting federations and IOC. This is despite an agreement to do so following a round table meeting in January (3). Greenpeace Russia met the IOC in Sochi on 23 April, and submitted the list of alternative sites directly.

During an IOC Coordinating Commission visit to Sochi in April, the Russian authorities declared no venue would be changed. Greenpeace hopes the UN Environmental Programme's recommendations will change this decision and encourage the International Olympic Committee to consider alternative sites that take environmental impact into account.

Other contacts: Andrey Petrov, Greenpeace Russia World Heritage Program Coordinator, +7 903 739 49 62Vera Bakasheva, Greenpeace Russia Press Officer, +7 903 219 32 87

Notes: (1) The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the official consultant to the International Olympic Committee on questions of environmental protection in preparation of and during the 2014 Olympic Games. In February 2008, the Government of the Russian Federation invited the UNEP to meet Russian authorities and the Sochi-2014 Organising Committee to discuss ways of supporting efforts to minimise the environmental impact of the 2014 Olympics. As a result, UNEP’s executive director sent a delegation to Moscow and Sochi from 7-10 April to visit proposed venues and establish whether it could contribute to efforts to make the 2014 Olympic Games environmental. (2) See http://www.iucnredlist.org/info/introduction for the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. (3) The NGO Green Patrol organised a meeting between environmental organisations, including Greenpeace Russia, and Sochi-2014 Organising Committee, Olympstroy and the Ministry of Natural Resources on 23 January 2008. It was agreed the Committee would forward NGO recommendations to the respective Olympic bodies.