Olimpic Games at the Cost of World Heritage?

Press release - 13 July, 2006
On 22 June 2006 the International Olympic Committee named the city of Sochi as an official candidate to host Winter Olympic Games 2014. This decision threatens the destruction of the unique nature landscapes of the West Caucasus, including the territories inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Sochi national park

In the framework of preparations for the Olympic Games the Russian government prepared a federal target program "Development of the City of Sochi as a Mountain-Climatic Resort (2006-2014)". According to the program, a mass construction of sports facilities and other infrastructure is planned in the territory of the Sochi national park near the borders of the Caucasus state nature biosphere reserve, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage property since 1999. The construction will cause destruction of the unique Alpine forest in the territories of the reserve and the national park.

Despite the fact that the draft target program has not been endorsed yet and it has not been approved by the state environmental impact assessment committee, the construction of sports facilities has already been started on the territory of the Sochi national park, which is a gross violation of the law.

Construction and exploitation 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 a full understanding with the Sochi city administration, the authorities of the Krasnoyarsk Krai, and the federal bodies.

Once again financial interests of large corporations contest the Russian and international law. Such actions may once again make the international community question the ability of Russia to fulfill its obligations to protect the World Heritage properties, as it already happened with Baikal. Furthermore, this can affect the final decision about the city hosting the Olympic Games.

 "We think that organization of the Olympic Games must not result in destruction of the unique nature territories, especially so once they are inscribed in the World Heritage List," said Mikhail Kreindlin, Greenpeace expert. "We hope that the Russian government and international organizations, such as UNESCO and IOC, will also take all measures to ensure this does not happen".

For further information please contact Greenpeace expert Mikhail Kreindlin and press officer Evgeniya Belyakova - +7 495 926 5045.