As the Winter Olympics prepares to kick off in Sochi, Future London takes a look at the best writing around on this year’s controversial host city.
Green Games? “As part of its bid, Russia told IOC members it would be staging a “zero waste” Games that followed green building standards. This was a huge challenge: organizers had to build infrastructure to host 88 other competing countries, the world’s media and hundreds of thousands of spectators in an underdeveloped region that was home to a UNESCO World Heritage site and a national park. Sochi organizers pushed ahead with their green theme, working with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to review construction progress, issuing interim sustainability reports measuring their environmental impact and devising an environmental strategy that promised to deliver the Games “in harmony with nature.”” – Kharunya Paramaguru for TIME Magazine on how the Games aren’t’ living up to their green promises.
Paralympic Preparations? “The woman I work with who guides me through the city says these “improvements” are a major step forward for Sochi. She says people with disabilities are often forced to stay in their homes. And if they want to venture out, they need the support of many people to manoeuvre them through the streets.” – Peter Akman for CTV News on Sochi’s Paralympic preparations.
Protest Permission? “The protest zone, about nine miles from the nearest Olympic site, is similar to three created by the Chinese government during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. In China, however, the authorities refused to grant permission for any rallies and harassed or arrested those who applied. Tanya Lokshina, Russia director at Human Rights Watch, said the easing of the ban was part of Russia’s “efforts to convince critics that it’s a democracy where freedom of expression is respected within reasonable limits.”” – Steven Lee Myers for The New York Times on Putin’s precarious relationship with protest at Sochi.
The Most Expensive Games in History? “Now, almost by design Olympic budgets overrun — last year one report described the proposed budget for an Olympic bid as “more like a fictitious minimum that is consistently overspent” — but Sochi’s budget seems inexplicably big. One could take it at face value — the games are clearly meant to be one of the shining glories of the Putin era, so everyone is spending lots of money with government blessing on making it great. On the other hand, you could just assume it’s all corruption — Russian opposition figures have called the whole thing a “monstrous scam” with up to $30 billion in funds stolen.” – Adam Taylor for Business Insider on dubious spending in Sochi.
Accommodation Crisis? “Dormitories that were intended to house 25,000 volunteers, mostly Russian university students, are still construction sites and at least 5,000 workers have been transferred to hotels and apartments that were meant to be for journalists according to an Olympic official who asked not to be named. Media workers will now have to be put up in private hotels at huge additional cost to the building contractors.” – Roland Oliphant and Jack Lundy for The Telegraph on Sochi’s race for accommodation space.
Local benefits? “The problems are serious and wide-ranging, including disrupted water supplies, damaged homes (sometimes with no government compensation), and forced evictions. Residents in Sochi’s Akhshtyr district say that the construction of railway and highway tunnels has even cut them off from public transit.” – Mark Byrnes for Atlantic Cities on how the Games have affected the lives of locals in Sochi.