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Gold medal for a Green decision

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Gold medal for a Green decision

IUCN commends Russian Prime Minister and Russia’s Olympic Organizing Committee for its decision to move parts of competition venues

Gland, Switzerland, 5 July 2008 (IUCN) –The announcement made on 3 July to move some of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic sporting events to avoid threats to the Western Caucasus World Heritage Site is a victory for this exceptional protected area, says IUCN.

“It is important to recognize a good decision when it is made and this is one of them” said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of IUCN, which is the technical advisory body on natural heritage to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention.  “The decision to move some events and construction away from the Western Caucasus World Heritage site is an encouraging sign from the Russian authorities. The Olympic spirit is well served when nature conservation is taken into consideration.”

IUCN and UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre conducted a mission to the area earlier this year and expressed strong reservations about the potential impacts of some Olympic facilities on natural values. Particular concerns were expressed about the sliding centre (for bobsleigh and luge competitions), the biathlon trail and the Olympic Village. Those were considered too close to the Western Caucasus World Heritage area and could endanger the unique value of the site.

“This a very good example of civil society, through local and international conservation organizations, succeeding in making sure that environmental issues are not forgotten when planning major events.” said David Sheppard, Head of IUCN’s Protected Areas Programme. “While we will all need to remain vigilant, the fact that this threat to the World Heritage Site seems to have been removed is a cause for celebration.”

IUCN is pleased that its work in advising the World Heritage Committee, and advice provided to the International Olympic Committee, contributed to the decision by the Russian authorities to substantially modify its plans for the benefit of nature, Russian people themselves and, because of the unique value of the site, the whole world.  IUCN also paid tribute to the work of Greenpeace- Russia, WWF-Russia, and other environmental organizations in raising both concerns and possible solutions.

“Protecting nature should not be something we do only when it is convenient, particularly in natural World Heritage sites,” said Marton-Lefèvre. “By modifying its plans for such a major project, Russia is doing the right thing and is showing that caring for our natural environment is truly a universal value.”


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