Russia Violates Pledge To Make Sochi The Cleanest Olympics Ever

The Russian government pledged to make the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games the “cleanest ever” when they made their winning pitch to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) back in 2007.  They are not living up to that pledge.

When Russia submitted its bid to host the 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Sochi, many thought that having the winter games at a summer seaside resort city was disastrous notion from an environmental point of view (it will take tremendous amounts of energy to make snow in an environment that could well see temperatures of 50°F and above).


Beach-goer walks by Sochi Olympic Ice Hockey Arena in August (82°F that day).  Many question siting the Olympic Winter Games in a sub-tropical area where winter temperatures can be above 50°F.  (Photo Credit: BusinessInsider)

Despite that environmental concern and others (almost no existing infrastructure in terms of venues which meant a huge amount of new construction), the Russian Olympic Committee made sustainability a key selling point in their bid.  And that pitch worked as Sochi defeated Salzburg, Austria and Pyeonchang, South Korea* (both with better weather from a winter sports point of view and also more of an existing sports infrastructure) to win the Olympics that begin next February 7.

That pledge has been broken, notes the Associated Press.  It reports that Russia has been dumping waste from construction projects associated with the Games.  This breaks the zero waste pledge Russia made in their bid.

In a visit last week to Akhshtyr, just north of Sochi, the AP found “that state-owned Russian Railways is dumping tons of construction waste into a landfill described by authorities (the Russian version of the US Environmental Protection Agency) as illegal”.  Perhaps the most alarming aspect of the AP’s story is that Russian Railways was fined only $3,000 for the violation and the dump wasn’t closed.  A $3,000 fine on a project that cost billions!!  And think about this–Russia’s $51 billion budget for the Olympics contains no provisions for treating construction waste.

Dumping Outside Sochi

A truck unloads construction waste material illegally near Akhshtyr village. This landfill outside Sochi, host of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, is in the middle of a water protection zone where dumping industrial waste is banned. (Photo Credit: AP/Dmitry Lovetsky)

The biggest controversy in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics has been the anti-gay laws, signed by President Vladimir Putin in June of this year.  My expectation is that NBC will live up to its promise to delve into that issue–and prominently–during its many, many hours of coverage.  I hope that NBC, the network of “Green Is Universal” will also devote some coverage to Russia’s failure to live up to its “Cleanest Games” pledge.

* Pyeongchang eventually won the rights to host the 2018 Olympic Winter Games

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6 thoughts on “Russia Violates Pledge To Make Sochi The Cleanest Olympics Ever”

  1. I’m skeptical about all the promises the Russians are making about this Olympics and I sincerely hope that NBC doesn’t miss a single opportunity to take viewers “backstage” to see if they are living up the the GREEN pledge.

  2. NBC did an awful job, IMHO, covering the pollution problems, not to mention human rights abuses, in China during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. They had it easy with the 2010 Winter Olympics being in Vancouver and the 2012 Summer Games being in London. I share your skepticism about NBC and Sochi regarding the greenwashing issue. I think they’ll get into the anti-gay issue a bit.

  3. Unfortunately the members of the International Olympic Commitee are poorly regulated and have been accused of accepting bribes for years. Remember the Salt Lake Scandal?

  4. The Salt Lake scandal led to the US cleaning up its Olympic act, which led, in part, to the US…not getting the 2016 Summer Games (Rio). And the IOC trades the scandal lead among international sporting governing bodies with FIFA (world soccer/futbol). The 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which went to Russia and Qatar, respectively, were rife with corruption and vote fixing. The US, which bid for the 2022 World Cup, went very green, per this earlier GSB post:

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