GREEN PIECE: Russia’s Olympic-sized waste

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First Posted: 2/18/2014

Once every four years, we are entertained by the Winter Olympic Games. So far, the games have been hosted on three continents by 11 different countries. This year, the Olympics are being held in Sochi, Russia. Personally, I had never heard of Sochi before this year’s Olympics, but what I have heard isn’t exactly setting the standards for what a proper Olympic Games host should be.

Hoping to pull off the most lavish Winter Olympics in history, Vladimir Putin spent over $50 billion on preparations while destroying the environment and turning one of Europe’s most beautiful national parks into a construction zone. The preparations for the Olympics in Sochi have left quite a trail of environmental destruction behind.

The poor decisions started long before construction even began, when the government decided to host the games inside the Sochi National Park, a park that is home to a variety of rare plants and animals. Originally, it was illegal to hold large-scale sporting events within the park, but the laws were changed when it came time to plan for the Olympics. In order to speed up the construction process, the Sochi government allowed logging of trees and shrubs destroying natural habitats like rare wetlands, where dolphins and pelicans lived. The Sochi games committee failed to relocate any of the animals in the park and ended up clearing more than 8,000 acres of land that should have been untouched.

Russia promised a “Zero Waste” program, saying they would be the cleanest games in history. Sadly, Sochi has been illegally dumping construction waste in environmental areas that should be protected. According to the Associated Press, Sochi has been dumping tons of construction waste into an illegal landfill. While attempting to hide their illegal dumping, Sochi ended up dumping hazardous materials directly into a protected water zone, thus contaminating the city’s water supply.

Another damaging blow to the Sochi environment was the construction on the joint highway-railway route from the Adler district of Russia to Sochi. The construction disturbed the Mzymta River, a place once known to be a spawning area of endangered Black Sea Atlantic salmon. Due to the pollution and destruction of the site, no more salmon come up the river.

Perhaps the most disturbing news out of Sochi is the heartbreaking disposal of stray dogs. Before the games started, the Sochi government hired a pest control company to kill stray dogs in order to “clean up” the city. Shooting and even poisoning stray dogs in an effort to project a clean image of Sochi has animal rights activists furious.

Sochi vowed to host the most environmentally friendly Olympic Games ever; perhaps that’s how they won the bid to host in the first place. Sadly, they have not fulfilled their promises and, if anything, they have created an environmental nightmare.