This week has seen, probably, most heated arguments from opposers and supporters of hosting Olympic Games in Sochi. Not surprisingly, though, IOC officials will visit Sochi in a few days on their last tour of the city, before they select an official host in June.

So, lets take a look at both sides (long post)


The opposition to the plans of hosting the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi comes mostly from environmental groups (Greens, WWF, etc.) and local residents, mostly local to the areas that will be affected by federal development program and the Olympics, if it is to occur.

The Environmentalists
Sochi is located in truly unique place on Earth. Even the fact that Sochi is a city known to millions as summer resort and is successfully competing with major winter resorts to host winter Olympics should tell one something about this place. Squeezed between mountains and sea, surrounded by and part of the Sochi Natural Park and the National Caucasus Biosphere Reserve, a Natural UNESCO World Heritage Site, rich with curative mineral waters, a home to many endangered species, and history going back to the times of ancient Greece… Naturally, any major constructions (such as the projects hosting Olympic Games will require) causes major concerns.

The concern is that developing areas in the mountains will intrude into natural habitat of the animals and threaten their existence. The same goes for the plants. Plus all the generated pollution from the development, and further use of the infrastructure. It’s hard to argue with this, so our government doesn’t. It pledged to be strict with developers about the ecology, and regularly meets with the leaders of the environmental organizations. Yet we hear from them over and over, and here is why – they simply don’t trust the “system”. They know that in Russia, with its level of corruption still high, a minister can promise one thing truly intending to do what he says, but he may not be able to control the process all the way “down” to the implementation. And that somewhere along the way some official can sell out what was promised to be left along; considering the levels of corruption, these areas may be considerable.

It should be noted here that some environmental organizations have very radical stand, and if they had it their way we’d all probably be living stone age – I don’t pay attention to them. However, most other ones are trying to keep the balance between civilized living and safety for our planet, and this I respect. It should also be said that ecology groups in Russia together with local residents have had major success on some projects, and that the Russian government does work with them. Very good example of this recently was government’s decision to change the path of the pipeline in Siberia that was originally planned too close to the Baikal lake (the deepest and oldest lake in the world), even though this made cost of the project surge and deadlines shift.

The Locals
Well, the local resident’s concerns are a more “down to earth” — they afraid to loose their homes, and their “ways of life” (more on that in “supporting” side below). Today they live near the sea, some a couple of minutes walk away from the beach (don’t be imagining a paradise yet ;)), they have their own homes (do not imagine a beautiful villas), and have a piece of land where that gives rich harvest of whatever they decide to grow. Many of these people are old and will not be able to compete for jobs, so having this land is important to them. Most of them make money on renting rooms to “wild” tourists – people who come to Sochi without going through the travel agency and rent a room from locals, which is usually a lot cheaper. So local residents afraid that government will not give them replacement place to live that is nearly as close to the sea, or they’ll may have to move to undeveloped parts of the city, or move too far away from their neighbours, friends and relatives – considering Sochi is stretched 145 km long, their new place could be quite far away.

Some people are also arguing that many of the newly constructed venues (such as an expensive bobsleigh track, or the hockey and ice skating arenas which will be built on the seashore – a warm place even during winter) will not be needed after the Olympics.

And of course many Sochi residents’ fear is the idea of their beautiful health rehabilitation and recreational city becoming one huge construction zone for the next six years!


Ok, so the opposers have a lot of good reasons and points. Very good points in fact. Let’s take a look at what supporters have to counter this.

Before taking on everything that was stated above, lets first recall what plans to be done and what is financial commitments are (which are important as they will insure the successful completion of everything that was planned). It is important, as without this all the supporters would have be the “world’s biggest sporting event”.

So, here’s a partial list of what is planned to be done.
– The brand new sporting and recreational venues in the mountains. All venues will be available to host other world-class sporting events and for Russian sportsmen to train, which they now do abroad just because Russia doesn’t have or has limited number of appropriate sites for this. For example, currently Russia doesn’t have a single world-class bobsleigh track. Also, Sochi doesn’t have a single ice-skating ring. When I was a kid, I city used to setup an ice ring in “Festivalny” concert hall during winter, and my parents would often take me there after school, even though it wasn’t close to where we lived. And I loved it. But in late 80s it stoped, and today kids in Sochi don’t have anything like this. Also, in Krasnaya Polyana there are skiing schools for kids, but they don’t have their own ski trails, so they are limited to commercial Alpika’s trails. All the proposed constructions will change this dramatically.
– New energy system for the city. If you follow what’s going on in Sochi before the Olympics, you most certainly know what happened a couple of weeks back – the city was out of electricity for three days after electric lines collapsed in bad weather. You may think this is bad luck and could happen anywhere, we don’t control the weather. However it’s not bad luck – this happens quite often, and nobody has done anything about it until now. New powerlines _around_ mountains (therefore less likely to be affected by heavy snow, and are easier to get to in case of an accident) are planned, as well as new mini hydraulic power plants on Mzymta river – this will make Sochi less dependent on the electricity from outside. There are talks (not yet approved) about natural gaz pipeline from Dzubga to Sochi. Many remote parts of the city still don’t have access to the use of natural gaz and are dependent on either propane, or only on electricity.
– Several communications projects are to be completed, some of them will affect not only Sochi, but whole Krasnodar Krai! It means, better quality TV choices (including HDTV), digital radio, faster and available in more areas internet access.
– New roads. A road around the Sochi’s center (for transit) will finally be completed. A possibility of much needed Dzhubga-Sochi highway is being discussed. Whole new road infrastructure in Adler, w/o which no Olympics will ever do in Sochi.
– New airport. The old “new” terminal is already being reconstructed, a landing strip being renovated to be able to accept any kinds on airplanes.
– Raildoad 2.0 – there’s talk of adding second railway in addition to the existing one. And construction of transit railway from airport to Adler train station.
– New infectious diseases hospital, new recycling and waste disposal center, (sewerage system where not yet available – theses still places exist!) and other infrastructure.
– New hotels with better service. Sochi2014 bid team said that 50% on the new hotels will be 5* hotels.

Around $12 billion will be invested by government and ____ by private sector (probably even more than what the government already committed to).

Of course it’s hard to answer to environmentalists’ concerns with such a major intrusion into the nature that all these plans will cause. Some compromises will have to be made. After all, they are not planning to build chemical plants in National Parks. Besides, there will be improvements for the environment in other sectors: boiler-houses currently operating on mazut (not friendly for environment) will be converted to use natural gaz (clean natural fuel), new modern waste disposal center will be built, new sewerage system will be created (currently some parts of Imeritinskaya valley, where Olympic venues will be built, don’t have any sewerage system and the waste is being dumped into that same environment the Greens are trying to protect, but you won’t hear THIS from them!)

Now let’s look at who lives in Imeritinskaya valley and what “infrastructure” there is for their use. This area has mostly private houses, but its really underdeveloped part of the city. Yes, there are some new private hotels (mostly three stories houses people built to live in and to rent out the rest), but also lots of really old houses without even sewerage system! That is no way to live! Yes, people are afraid of changes, but this all has to change!

Imeritinka - 03
Imeritinka - 02
Imeritinka - 01
Photos of some parts in Imeritinskaya Valey. Source:

Most of the city’s problems are related to the obsolete, overused, and in some places underdeveloped or even non-existing infrastructure. This is a good opportunity to fix the problems, bring the World’s greatest sporting event to many people who otherwise won’t have an opportunity to see it, and to enjoy the results of all this for the decades to come.


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  1. 1
    Timothy Post
    February 18th, 2007 at 14:34

    Very informative post. I’m really enjoying your blog. Knock wood (psst, psst, psst left shoulder) Sochi is successful in its bid.

  2. 2
    February 18th, 2007 at 21:29

    Thanks a lot for feedback! Yeah, I hope Sochi gets the Olympics too :)

  3. 3
    David Kubit
    July 5th, 2007 at 20:43

    I am proud to say that the people of the city of Sochi are perhaps the best example of friendly. Sochi won the bid, but we knew, or prayed it would happen in October 2006 while attending as representatives of Long Beach, California, Sochi’s friendship or Sister City in the US. Time to start learning the new alphabet for 2014!

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