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Putin’s Olympic Fever Dream -

Stashed in: Olympics!, Russia and Friends, Russia, Environmental Impacts

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The single most expensive project of the Sochi Olympics is not the Fisht stadium, which will be the site of the opening and closing ceremonies (and where matches of the 2018 World Cup will be held). It is not the Bolshoi Ice Palace, the hockey arena shaped like a frozen droplet of water (which it is said will become the home of a new franchise in Russia’s expanding Kontinental Hockey League), nor the Iceberg, where figure skating will take place. These are the buildings that hundreds of millions of television viewers will see during the Games, but the cost of building them pales in comparison with the project most will not see: a new highway and railroad connecting the coastal area to the village of Krasnaya Polyana in the mountains 30 miles away. It cost at least $8 billion, more than the entire Vancouver games four years ago.

The project was an engineering marvel and, to critics, a boondoggle that has created an environmental calamity. The railroad begins at a new train station (now the largest station in all of Russia) in Adler, a district of Sochi. It then courses up the Mzymta River, which, once pristine, now churns downhill in a muddy brown, washing past construction detritus left behind. The impact was so extensive that the United Nations Environmental Program pressed Russia to adopt a restoration plan, while Unesco has repeatedly questioned the effects of the construction on the Western Caucasus, which it describes, along with a forest in the Urals, as ‚Äúthe only large mountain area in Europe that has not experienced significant human impact.‚ÄĚ

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