ENVIRONMENTAL WATCH ON NORTH CAUCASUS (EWNC) <February 11, 2013>
OPEN STATEMENT TO THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE (IOC)
SOCHI 2014 WINTER OLYMPICS:
A CELEBRATION OF HUMAN BODY AND SPIRIT OR COMPLICITY IN CRIMES?
On July 4, 2007 during the 119th session of the IOC, the Sochi resort was chosen to be the host city for the XXII Winter Olympic Games. However, numerous events took place since then. From moral, ethical, and formal points of view, these events jeopardize the very possibility of conducting Olympic Games in Russia and, in particular, in Sochi. This position is substantiated by the following.
Being a supreme authority of Olympic Movement, the IOC’s role is defined by Olympic Charter, which is the constitution of the IOC. The Charter states that “[t]he IOC’s role is …to encourage and support a responsible concern for environmental issues, to promote sustainable development in sport and to require that the Olympic Games are held accordingly; [and] to promote a positive legacy from the Olympic Games to the host cities and host countries.”[i] In fact, environment is the third pillar of the Olympic Movement alongside with sport and culture.[ii] The IOC committed itself numerous times to sustainable development by establishing its own Agenda 21 and a close cooperation with UNEP, by conducting World Conference on Sport and Environment, by integrating environmental requirements into Candidature and Application files and questionnaire documentation, and by taking environment and positive legacy of the Games to the host country, region and the city into account when selecting the host city.[iii] Such positive legacy must outweigh negative impacts of the Games.[iv]
However, large-scale destruction of environment and substantial environmental damage caused by preparation for Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics has been established.
A unique environment is being damaged irreparably over a large area. According to our information, functionality of approximately 2000 hectares of the Greater Sochi had been radically changed; radical land expropriation, destruction of natural landscapes and appearance of anthropogenic landscapes have taken place. First of all, this concerns the Mzimta river valley (deforestation) in the area of construction of a combined railroad and highway Adler – Alpinka Service and Imeretinskaya valley, where substantial agricultural lands and wetlands were replaced by compensation housing construction and by transportation infrastructure and storage facilities. Some of the territories of the Western Caucasus (UNESCO World Heritage site) were removed from World Heritage protection, natural heritage sites are being destroyed, and crushed-stone quarries are mined in the reserve areas of the national park. That is, diverse ecosystems were damaged practically irreparably. New threats of landslides, erosion, avalanches, and mudslide have appeared on the slopes of mountain ridge Aibga as a result of continuing deforestation and construction of ski trails, chair lifts and other objects. Disappearance of specific natural habitats, even when there are analogous remote natural habitats, of numerous plant and animal species in Sochi is reaching critical levels and is leading to local extinction of the species, which, in its turn, is leading to impoverishment of biodiversity. This is a consequence of the inability of the affected species to migrate across regions unfit for their survival.
Bringing into operation major power plants will inevitably damage the unique Sochi environment. Moreover, the Sochi Bid Book included no provisions for some of the power plants being built, such as Kudepstinskaya thermal power station. There are also reasons to believe that construction of these power plants serves ends purposefully obscured from the public.
CONCLUSION: In reality, preparation for Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics strongly contradicts the Olympic Charter and its requirements for responsible concern for environmental issues.
According to bye-law to rule 33 of the Olympic Charter, “[e]ach applicant city has the obligation to comply with the Olympic Charter and with any other regulations or requirements issued by the IOC Executive Board…”
However, the facts indicate that legal obligations stipulated in the Bid Book as well as in the Guarantees File, have been breached by Russia, Russian Olympic Committee and the city of Sochi. For example, waste from Olympic zone is being transferred beyond the area of Sochi, to the Belorechensky landfill. These actions are not in compliance with zero waste guarantees stated in the Bid Book. Moreover, decision to transport Olympic waste did not take transportation costs into account.
CONCLUSION: Violations of the IOC’s requirements are evident.
According to fundamental principles of Olympism, “[t]he goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” However, numerous and large-scale human rights abuses are taking place in Russia. Such abuses include violations of civil and political rights, as well as human dignity.
1. Unprecedented large-scale violations of electoral rights during the 2011-2012 election campaigns were seen by many citizens as cynical abasement of their human dignity. This was the reason for massive public protests that followed the elections.
2. Amendments to legislation on public events made the Article 31 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation non-functional. Article 31 guarantees freedom of assembly.
3. Attacks on opposition politicians and activists have happened in the streets in broad daylight. Most of these crimes were not investigated. In some cases, obviously false accusations by government prosecutors indicate that these attacks were organized by the Russian government.
4. Opposition politicians and civil activists have been fired or were forced to abandon their businesses based upon made-up or fabricated grounds.
5. Human dignity of prisoners is degraded in penitentiary facilities. Such degradation of human dignity frequently causes massive protests.
Olympic Movement, in particular, in Sochi, should have been a complex of innovations aimed at positive changes in the city, region, country and the world through sports, culture and education. Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics should have been seen as a rejuvenation project that would stimulate modernization in all spheres of public life. This means that the government, by common consent, should guarantee the political strategy and ideological guidelines aimed at consolidation of all civic forces in order to achieve sustainable development. However, the facts indicate that the line taken by the government is antagonistic toward its citizens with the aim of suppressing any peaceful civil demonstrations and of changing their very understanding of human dignity.
CONCLUSION: From the very moment of selection of Sochi as the host city for 2014 Winter Olympics, the government of the Russian Federation has deliberately pursued the policy to degrade human dignity of its citizens. Consequently, governmental policy in Russia contradicts on of the main goals of Olympism to foster respect for human dignity.
There are serious grounds to revise and cancel the IOC’s decision to host XXII Winter Olympics 2014 in the city of Sochi. However, we strongly believe that sportsmen and sportswomen must not suffer. Therefore, every person who wishes to count him or herself as an honest and decent human being, regardless of their citizenship, has the opportunity to adequately express his or her attitude toward the existing state of affairs.
For example, a person can abstain from buying souvenirs with Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics symbols; abstain from participating in Olympic lotteries and in other commercial and non-commercial Olympic events. Similarly, a person can take part in disseminating truthful information about the situation in Russia and Sochi among their friends, thus, participating in the global campaign against moral and financial complicity of the Olympic Movement in crimes against civil and political rights and against global environment.
Russia, Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, Russian Olympic Committee and the city of Sochi are not in compliance with binding guarantees stipulated in the Olympic Contract. There is only a year left until Sochi Olympics and this situation is unlikely to change in the remaining year.
We announce that we are launching the program ‘Analysis of geological and ecological situation of agglomeration of the Greater Sochi during the Olympic construction and conducting of Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics by means of Geographic Information System technologies.’ The program will last until 2015 when we will evaluate the final impact of the Olympics based on many broad indicators. You may name this “Olympic black list”, if you wish. The first part of this work will be presented at the X World Conference on Sport and Environment that will be held in Sochi from October 30 to November 2, 2013.
[i] Olympic Charter, Rule 2, paragraphs 13, 14
[ii] The Olympic Movement Fact Sheet, July 2012 at 1, available at http://www.olympic.org/Documents/Reference_documents_Factsheets/Environment_and_substainable_developement.pdf
[iii] Id. at 3