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Greenpeace: Olympians Who Avoid Struggle

posted by eagle on April, 2008 as CIRCASSIA ADIGA

Olympians who avoid struggle

April 23, 2008

Greenpeace activists hanged a 15-meter high warning sign “World Heritage in Danger” on the road to Krasnaya Polyana

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Russian Federation — April 23, 2008, Sochi. Today Greenpeace Russia met with the Coordination Commission of the International Olympic Committee that is now in Sochi with official visit to inspect the progress of Olympic construction.

At the meeting the two parties discussed environmental issues related to preparations for the Sochi-2014 Winter Olympic Games. Russian Minister of Natural Resources Yuri Trutnev and President of the Sochi-2014 Organizing Committee Dmitry Chernyshenko also attended the meeting.

The IOC representatives were once again informed on the position of Greenpeace Russia concerning location of Olympic venues and infrastructure in high conservation value territories including parts of the World Heritage site “Western Caucasus”. Greenpeace specifically underlined that the issue of location of the disputed Olympic venues could be easily resolved by locating them outside the high conservation value lands. There are at least 16 alternative locations for the most disputed facility – the bobsleigh tracks. The locations were developed by Greenpeace, WWF and non-profit partnership “Transparent World” and on February 22, 2008, submitted to the Sochi-2014 Organizaing Committee for consideration. Unfortunately, no such consideration ever took place.

Giving his comments to the Greenpeace position, Natural Resources Minister Trutnev confirmed that the areas in question were indeed extremely valuable but all environmental issues may be resolved without relocation of Olympic facilities. Responding to this, the Greenpeace experts claimed that it is absolutely impossible physically and that there are only two options: Russia either violates both international and national legislation by building where it was originally planned, or relocates all Olympic venues beyond the high conservation value lands.

The IOC pointed out, though, that finding a solution to this dispute is Russia’s internal affair but stressed that the International Olympic Committee is willing to do everything possible to maintain a constructive dialogue between the organizers of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games and environmental NGOs.

As far as we understand the IOC, they do not want any trouble, but, on the other hand, they either don’t want or can’t put an end to this story. The IOC prefers to keep out of struggle, however, I am afraid that this just doesn’t work because as an international organization the IOC simply must take a position regading Russia’ violations of international agreements. Besides, this position must comply with environmental requirements of the Olympic Charter”, said Head of the World Heritage Project of Greenpeace Russia Andrey Petrov.

To emphasize the importnance of the discussed topics, Greenpeace activists hanged a 15-meter high warning sign “World Heritage in Danger” on the road to Krasnaya Polyana.

The huge trianglular banner on an unused power transmission tower near the Adler – Krasnaya Polyana road used by the IOC Coordination Commission to reach sites of Olympic construction in the mountains, is a warning sign that was to remind about threats to the unique nature of the Caucasus.

At the same time as the IOC Coordination Commission, the olympic construction progress is to be evaluated by the mission of the UNESCO World Heritage Center and the IUCN. If these independent  experts decide that the threat to the “Western Caucasus” World Heritage site is indeed real, the World Heritage Committee may decide to transfer this area into the List of World Heritage in Danger already at its next session. This will signify that Russia and, indirectly, the IOC have severely violated the international Convention for Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage of UNESCO. The consequences of this will indeed be sad including law suits againt the IOC and a terminal decision to hold the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in another city than Sochi.

The changes that we are seeking to make are rather insignificant from the point of view of Olympic Games but extremely important from the viewpoint of environmental protection, - said the High Conservation Value Areas Project coordinator of Greenpeace Russia, Mikhail Kreindlin. – We do hope that the IOC following the strict environmental requirements of the Olympic Charter, will urge the Russian Government to remove the disputed Olympic venues and infrastructure from the buffer are of the “Western Caucasus” World Heritage site and the Grushevy Ridge”.

To learn more, please, contact:
+7-918-201-31-54 – Mikhail Kreindlin
+7-918-201-31-50  - Andrey Petrov
+7-918-335-51-80 – Vera Bakasheva (press-secretary)

Additional information

1. According to the existing plans, some of the Olympic venues and parts of infrastructure (for example, the bobsleigh tracks and the mountain Olympic village), as well as several high-class tourist hotels including a golf-club and a SPA resort are planned for construction directly on the border of the Caucasus State Biosphere Nature Reserve and on the Grushevy Ridge – the high conservation value area of the Sochi National Park, which is a violation of both Russian and international laws. This is very likely to result in destruction of key habitats of rare and endangered animal species and severe damage to one of the Western Caucasus largest massifs of non-disturbed forests.

2. This is the first visit of the IOC Coordination Commission to Sochi. This Commission was established by the International Olympic Committee to specifically monitor preparations for the Olympic Games. Based on recommendations of the Coordination Commission, the IOC, in particular, takes decisions regarding relocation of disputed olympic venues. The recommendations may even make the IOC change the host city of the upcoming Olympics. Among other objectives of the Commission is to try to resolve all disputes arising in the course of preparations for Olympic Games including environmental issues. According to the IOC, during this visit of the IOC Coordination Commission toSochi construction of Olympic venues on the Grushevy Ridge will become one of the main topics for discussion between the IOC and the Russian authorities.

3. Construction plans for the protection belt of the Caucasus Nature Reserve as well as the high conservation value lands of the Sochi National Park – the Grushevy Ridge, include the bobsleigh tracks, mountain Olympic village, a system of hydro-power plants of river Mzytma, terminal station of the Adler-Grushevaya Polyana railway and 9 high-end tourist complexes that have nothing to do with Winter Olympic Games.

4. According to the Olympic Charter, the International Olympic Committee is to support the olympic movement in its striving for protection of the environment, and to take all measures to demonstrate this idea in its actions.

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