Sochi residents blame Games for ecological damage

Fri Jan 17, 2014 7:40am EST
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By Thomas Grove

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - The first warning of the problems that eventually swept away Irina Vorochkova's house near Russia's Olympic city of Sochi came when the garden began shifting, then the ground slid away downhill towards a river.

As builders worked feverishly to get the Black Sea resort ready for winter games so closely tied to President Vladimir Putin's legacy, they failed to notice the effects their work was having on the village below.

Until the walls of Vorochkova's two-storey home fell. Tell-tale cracks snaked through neighboring houses.

The 58-year-old housewife now lives in an aluminum shack and is fighting a legal battle for compensation over damage she blames on Olympic subcontractors. Other villages near Sochi offer similar complaints of ruined homes, illegal landfills and broken promises that their lives would not be poisoned by construction.

"It started slowly with little things, like the poles for the clothesline were not quite in the same place, the borders of the garden had moved. Then the front of my house fell off," she said.

Putin is expected to spend more than $50 billion to show off Russia's modern face at the Games in Sochi, a Black Sea resort on the edge of the Caucasus Mountains. Moscow promised to set "new environmental standards" in Olympic construction.

Complaints about construction, along with international concerns about gay rights and security, threaten Putin's efforts to improve Russia's image through the games.

The Sochi 2014 organizing committee says construction has minimized harmful carbon emissions, and companies carrying out construction say they are sticking to their promises to meet international standards in protecting the environment.   Continued...

The Olympic rings are seen in front of the airport of Sochi, the host city for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics April 22, 2013. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk