The Russian government pledged to make the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games the “cleanest ever” when they made their winning pitch to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) back in 2007. They are not living up to that pledge.
When Russia submitted its bid to host the 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Sochi, many thought that having the winter games at a summer seaside resort city was disastrous notion from an environmental point of view (it will take tremendous amounts of energy to make snow in an environment that could well see temperatures of 50°F and above).
Beach-goer walks by Sochi Olympic Ice Hockey Arena in August (82°F that day). Many question siting the Olympic Winter Games in a sub-tropical area where winter temperatures can be above 50°F. (Photo Credit: BusinessInsider)
Despite that environmental concern and others (almost no existing infrastructure in terms of venues which meant a huge amount of new construction), the Russian Olympic Committee made sustainability a key selling point in their bid. And that pitch worked as Sochi defeated Salzburg, Austria and Pyeonchang, South Korea* (both with better weather from a winter sports point of view and also more of an existing sports infrastructure) to win the Olympics that begin next February 7.
That pledge has been broken, notes the Associated Press. It reports that Russia has been dumping waste from construction projects associated with the Games. This breaks the zero waste pledge Russia made in their bid.
In a visit last week to Akhshtyr, just north of Sochi, the AP found “that state-owned Russian Railways is dumping tons of construction waste into a landfill described by authorities (the Russian version of the US Environmental Protection Agency) as illegal”. Perhaps the most alarming aspect of the AP’s story is that Russian Railways was fined only $3,000 for the violation and the dump wasn’t closed. A $3,000 fine on a project that cost billions!! And think about this–Russia’s $51 billion budget for the Olympics contains no provisions for treating construction waste.
A truck unloads construction waste material illegally near Akhshtyr village. This landfill outside Sochi, host of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, is in the middle of a water protection zone where dumping industrial waste is banned. (Photo Credit: AP/Dmitry Lovetsky)
The biggest controversy in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics has been the anti-gay laws, signed by President Vladimir Putin in June of this year. My expectation is that NBC will live up to its promise to delve into that issue–and prominently–during its many, many hours of coverage. I hope that NBC, the network of “Green Is Universal” will also devote some coverage to Russia’s failure to live up to its “Cleanest Games” pledge.
* Pyeongchang eventually won the rights to host the 2018 Olympic Winter Games
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