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3 Jul, 2008 13:29

Preserving Sochi’s environment a priority - Putin

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has proposed to change the location of a number of Olympic facilities, meant to be built in Sochi, in order to quell environmental concerns. Putin criticised 2014 Winter Olympics organisers for what he called improper

Environmental activists celebrate what they call a breakthrough in preparations for the Sochi Olymics. Despite increasing construction costs, the organisers have agreed to move several Olympic venues to preserve the region’s unique wildlife.

Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin actively supports the Olympic movement. He says there’s no problem in relocating some of the facilities, and it should be done.

“I consider it necessary to relocate these facilities, including the Olympic village in the mountains, the bobsleigh, luge and skeleton track, and the water intake structure, to other places agreed upon with the International Olympic Committee,” Putin said at a session on Thursday.

Jean-Claude Killy, the head of the IOC Coordination Commission for the 2014 Games, described the move as historic, and said the International Olympic Committee has no serious objections to preparations for the Games.

President Putin also said that the Olympic construction in Sochi should be carried out on principle of preserving the region’s unique nature for future generations.

“When choosing between money and the environment, we give priority to the environment,” Putin added.

The Russian Black sea resort of Sochi won the Olympic bid one year ago. The ski resort of Krasnaya Polyana is suitable for all sorts of winter sports. Several dozen venues will have to be built in the region to host the 2014 Winter games.

The plans to build the Grushovaya Valley bobsleigh track near a nature reserve caused heated discussions and protests from environmental groups. The road leading to the track might cut the migration routes of wild animals. So environmentalists insisted that these facilities be built in a different area.

While Sochi its self received additional financing to improve the city’s aging roads and infrastructure, the surrounding areas look like one big construction site.

With less than six years to go until the Sochi Olympics, the authorities here are facing new challenges. But even though construction costs could rise because some venues must be relocated, it is likely to have positive consequences as the region’s unique and fragile wildlife will be protected for the future.