Crumbling Sochi hides behind Olympic facade

2014-01-20 13:12
A general view of the Olympic Park in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi with a dump in the background. (Mikhail Mordasov, AFP)

A general view of the Olympic Park in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi with a dump in the background. (Mikhail Mordasov, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Sochi - A shining new $635m highway on the outskirts of Sochi stands next to a crumbling apartment block with a red "SOS" banner on its roof.

The residents of 5a Akatsy Street have lived for years with no running water or sewage system. Construction for the 2014 Winter Games has made their lives more miserable: The new highway has cut them off from the city centre. Even their communal outhouse had to be torn down because it was found to be too close to the new road and ruled an eyesore.

The slum is one of the many facets of a hidden dark side in the host city of next month's Winter Olympics, which stands side-by-side with the glittering new construction projects that President Vladimir Putin is touting as a symbol of Russia's transformation from a dysfunctional Soviet leviathan to a successful, modern economy.

While state-run TV trains its cameras on luxury malls, sleek stadiums and high-speed train links, thousands of ordinary people in the Sochi area put up with squalor and environmental waste: villagers living next to an illegal dump filled with Olympic construction waste, families whose homes are sinking into the earth, city dwellers suffering chronic power cuts despite promises to improve electricity.

Putin promoted the Sochi Games, which starts on 7 February, as a unique opportunity to bring investment to the Black Sea resort and improve living standards for its 350 000 residents. Looking back at those promises, many residents, weary from years of living in the midst of Russia's biggest construction project in modern history, say they have yet to see any improvement in their lives and point to an array of negative effects.

"Everyone was looking forward to the Olympics", said Alexandra Krivchenko, a 37-year-old mother of three who lives on Akatsy street. "We just never thought they would leave us bang in the middle of a federal highway."

Environmental damage

People elsewhere in Sochi and surrounding villages have seen the quality of their life decline because of Olympic construction. In the village of Akhshtyr, residents complain about an illegal landfill operated by an Olympics contractor that has fouled the air and a stream that feeds the Sochi water supply. Waste from another illegal dump in the village of Loo has slid into a brook that flows into the already polluted Black Sea.

In the village of Mirny, just outside the Olympic Park, rumbling trucks have damaged foundations and caused homes to sink. And right across the railroad tracks from the Akatsy building, another multi-family residence has become prone to flooding after an Olympics-related road was built nearby.

Sochi residents also complain about widespread environmental damage, including the destruction of forests and the contamination of a river running down to the sea. Near the Olympic Park, a popular sandy beach was paved over for the development of a port that was never built.

Two giant power stations have been commissioned to provide electricity for the Olympic venues and the city, but power shortages across the city are still ubiquitous. At a recent televised meeting with Putin, Russia's energy minister said the grid was still being built and was unlikely to come online before 25 January, less than two weeks before the opening ceremonies.

Removals

The city has undertaken a colossal effort to upgrade its infrastructure and municipal services, installing a new sewage and waste-disposal system and hooking up thousands of homes to pipelines supplying natural gas. Three weeks before the start of the games, some Sochi streets remain dug up as construction workers continue to lay down new pipes and pavements.

Thousands of people whose homes were demolished to make way for Olympic construction have been relocated, but many others are still waiting for new homes. Meanwhile, even as investment has poured into Olympic facilities, Sochi's slum dwellings remain standing: The city government told The Associated Press in a written statement that more than 100 apartment buildings and private homes have been classified as uninhabitable.

"It's a parallel universe that locals to a great extent have no access to", said Olga Beskova, editor of the local website Sochinskiye Novosti, or Sochi News. "It has very little to do with how Sochi lives every day. So far, city streets are all dug up, residents have a lot of problems, and it's hard to see a happy ending after all of this construction."

The people on Akatsy Street have petitioned for decades to get the government to classify the 1941 barracks-like building as uninhabitable and provide them with new housing, so far with no success. They put up their red "SOS" sign in a desperate effort to call attention to their plight.

- AP
Read more on:    sochi olympics  |  vladimir putin  |  russia
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Get fit on a budget

It’s time to throw the “I can’t afford to exercise” excuse out the window.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Tips for paddling your first Dusi
Climbing the world’s largest stone arch
Awesome extreme sports people
Watch: 2015 Absa Cape Epic route

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be in the mood to philosophize and socialize and expand your mind on various discussions and group activities. You could...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.