The UN has criticised Russia’s crash programme being held as part of preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. It has said the exercise “poses a threat to the environment of the delicate Black Sea region”.
Following an inspection of the mountainous Olympic venue, the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) released a report this week alleging that the planned bobsleigh run, an Olympic Village under construction and a projected railway link posed a threat to the region’s endangered animal and plant species. “Our view is that the currently planned locations may compromise other efforts to ensure the games are environmentally friendly,” the report said.
“The UNEP would like to encourage the partners in the Russian federation and the IOC to look into the suitability of alternative locations,” it added.
Russia has pledged to invest up to $12 billion to turn the sleepy Black Sea resort town of Sochi into a world-class sports centre in time for the games, barely six years away. But the UN criticism, backed by local environmental groups, could throw a wrench into the already strained timetable for reconstructing the zone.
Environmental groups say the planned construction threatens the nearby Caucasus Nature Reserve, which is classified by UNESCO as the only mountainous area in Europe that remains nearly virgin wilderness.
“It’s crucial the Russian authorities and International Olympic Committee recognise the need to protect Russia’s precious wild habitat, and move the games away from this area,” said Andrei Petrov, a member of the Greenpeace Russia World Heritage Programme.