has it that Vancouver and Whistler may need to step in for Sochi during
the 2014 Olympics. The mere suggestion of hosting the Olympics twice in four years is being met with shudders by local residents.
writes how the IOC may have to move the 2014 Sochi Olympics to another
city for the first time in history or cancel them for the first time
since WWII and Kootenay Mountain Culture Magazine reports that the Russian host city is having challenges in meetings its timelines and obligations.
A small group of American Circassians have come to Vancouver with a
strong message to the world: "If you let the 2014 games go on as
planned in Russia, you'll be skiing on the graves of our oppressed
claims that 2014 marks the 150th commemorative anniversary of the
Circassian Genocide, when Russian armies killed 1.5 million people and
drove out residents living between the Black Sea and the Caucasus
The alpine ski and snowboard events are proposed for Rosa Khutor,
the Nordic events on Psekahko Ridge, and the alpine Olympic village at
Krasnaya Polyana, an existing village in the valley. Krasnaya Polyana
(named "The Red Hill" by the Russian troops for the amount of
Circassian blood spilled) will be the centre of the 2014 Olympic Games.
The Russian government disputes the Circassians' account of their
history and Russians don't speak about or acknowledge the genocide. The
small diaspora of Circassians is asking for the Olympics to be moved to
another location in Russia or elsewhere around the globe.
THE SOCHI-WHISTLER CONNECTION
The Sochi Olympic bid has a made-in-Whistler connection. The bid was
developed by the Whistler firm, Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners.
Ecosign has been designing ski resorts since 1976 and has designed
facilities for four winter Olympic games and several alpine
Sochi is a resort-spa and has been a place of rest since Czarist
times, while Whistler hosts elites from the Pacific Northwest. Sochi is
located on the shores of the Black Sea and experiences similar
temperatures as Victoria, B.C. Like Vancouver and Whistler, one can
sail and ski in one day in the Sochi area.
Sochi has the most expensive real estate in Russia and attracts
Russia's young elite, while Whistler and Vancouver boasts Canada's most
lucrative real estate prices.
Maria Sharapova, the world famous tennis player, grew up in Sochi
and it's no secret that Russian president Vladimir Putin loves to ski
in the Caucasus Mountains.
DESTRUCTION OF A UNESCO HERITAGE SITE
During his 2007 IOC speech in Guatemala, President Putin told IOC
officials that special emphasis would be placed on the environment.
Ironically, the Sochi region faces an ecosystem habitat catastrophe.
Sochi's venues would be built in the protective belt of the Caucasus
Nature Reserve, which is part of a protected UNESCO World Heritage
Site. The reserve was
established by the Soviet government in 1924 to preserve the
85 metre-high Nordmann Firs, believed to be the tallest trees in Europe
and a unique English Yew-European Box forest.
Anyone who has followed the environmental destruction of Whistler's
forests and wetlands to host the "greenest games ever," knows that the
government's promises contain little substance.
IOC REFORM NEEDED
As the world deals with the visible impacts of climate change, it
seems that the Olympics have become the legitimate way to clear large
tracts of protected land, for new resort development that would
otherwise never receive approval.
Critics of the current Olympic games are pushing for games to be
held in set locations to use existing facilities, rather than
destroying important natural areas to host the Olympics in a new city
every two years.
While organizers say Sochi construction on schedule, venue
construction has been halted pending land ownership disputes and the
games may not be going ahead as planned.
Once the world goes home in March, and Whistler and Vancouver
residents clean up, I hope we don't have to do it all again in 2014.