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23 Oct, 2007 19:43

Land disputes hit Sochi preparations

Plans to develop Sochi for the Winter Olympics in 2014 have been thrown into disarray by a court decision over building on park land.

A regional court has ruled that 90 per cent of the city's National Park has been used for the illegal building of private residences and hotels, instead of being allocated for sports venues.

The ruling follows concerted action by ecologists and residents in the region.
The decision could mean that proposals for rebuilding parts of Sochi will now have to be re-considered. 

In some cases the authorities are having to drive people out of their homes to clear land for new facilities.

Last week the Russian State Duma passed a bill that would regulate any land disputes where the authorities make a compulsory purchase to develop land for the Games.

But in reality it could turn out more difficult than expected.

Some Abhazian refugees, who moved to Sochi in the 90s to escape war in their region, have been living in a rundown house in Sochi for years.

But the court ruled the building be demolished and all residents be moved.

The people will be given temporary shelter in a hotel while the local government decides their fate.

Authorities have promised that they will help the evictees.

However, with major construction underway, more land disputes and law suits are expected in the future Olympic capital.

One of the major priorities for Sochi ahead of the games is the rebuilding of its electricity lines.

Heavy winter snowfalls cause the failure of old cables and switching gear, often leaving the whole region without power.

But officials say the problem is about to be solved. Energy specialists have assured Sochi residents that the new network will mean no more electricity black-outs.

New sports facilities are being built at great speed, and nearly all are dependent on the new electrical infrastructure.