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April 2, 2007

Infrastructure

Olympics vs. ecology: a Russian conundrum

MOSCOW

A top Russian environmental official brushed aside concerns that proposals for hosting the Winter Olympics in Sochi would severely damage local wildlife.

Sochi, one of three finalists for the games, spans diverse ecological zones ranging from the palm-lined Black Sea coast to the soaring, snowcapped Caucasus Mountains. Much of the region is relatively undeveloped and environmentalists say massive construction and an influx of people could do severe harm to animals and plants that have thrived in pristine conditions.

Oleg Mitvol, deputy head of Rosprirodnadzor environment safety watchdog, dismissed concerns that construction in the mountains would disrupt hoofed animals’ migration routes — saying there were more pressing issues.

“There are questions regarding the sewage that goes into the sea from old pipes; there are questions to do with the fact that there are no waste processing companies — there are 2,500 rubbish dumps there. In any event we need to invest serious money,” he said.

“If we don’t invest money there today, there won’t be 2,500 waste dumps — there will be 5,000. And I don’t know what is more pleasant for hoofed mammals: to walk among waste dumps or look at a ski slope.’”

Sochi’s infrastructure and sports facilities are less developed than the other two finalists for the Games — Salzburg, Austria, and Pyeongchang, South Korea.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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