In 2010, we began the countdown to the Sochi Olympics. We waited in excitement for four long years to watch our country’s most elite winter athletes compete on the world’s stage. Now that it’s April, we’re getting ready to trade in our skis and boots for flip flops and shorts, and the Winter Olympics could not be farther from our minds. Not to mention, considering the events in the Ukraine, thoughts of Russia are probably not very Olympic at the moment.

It seems fair to say that, just two months later, the world has moved on from Sochi 2014. However, the reality is that while we’ve all moved on from Putin’s Olympics, the town of Sochi and the surrounding area have not. The impact of the Olympics on the local environment has been devastating and irreversible. Russia’s promise that the 2014 winter games were to be delivered in harmony with nature” remains empty and unfulfilled...

Village leader Alexander Koropov points at rubble and garbage near a quarry close to Akhshtyr village in Sochi, Russia

Sochi National Park, which lies in the strictly protected UNESCO World Heritage site of the Western Caucasus mountains, was decimated by Olympic development. Authorities reversed environmental protection legislation in order to allow for venue and road construction in the National Park. Large scale deforestation, illegal waste dumping, blocked migration routes for local species, and destroyed wetlands are just a few of the effects on the area considered the most ecologically diverse in all of Russia. 

Contruction waste in the countryside of Russia

Sochi 2014 is being touted as a man-made environmental disaster. But, while it’s easy to point the finger at the IOC or Putin, or even the UN, we cannot ignore our own accountability. Until we uphold higher environmental standards for the Olympics, we cannot expect any kind of real change. In the meantime, as we pull out our bikes and get our garden beds prepped for the season, the citizens of Sochi and its neighboring villages are left to deal with the aftermath of two weeks of a highly anticipated, but quickly forgotten, sports event.

How do you stay accountable in upholding environmental standards in your local community?

By AI Blog contributor: Lucy Lynch

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