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Cablegate: Environmentalists Fret Over Sochi Olympiad

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RR RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD
DE RUEHMO #3316/01 1900240
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 090240Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1888
INFO RUEHZN/EST COLLECTIVE
RUEAEPA/HQ EPA WASHDC
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2535
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 2235
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 4281

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 003316

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR OES/ENV, EUR/RUS and EUR/PGI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV PGOV RS
SUBJECT: ENVIRONMENTALISTS FRET OVER SOCHI OLYMPIAD

REF: MOSCOW 1919

MOSCOW 00003316 001.2 OF 002


1. SUMMARY. The selection of Sochi as the site of the 2014 Winter
Olympic Games brought less joy to Russian environmentalists, who
have long warned about the potential impact of large-scale
construction in this region. Environmental NGOs will monitor
implementation of the Sochi 2014 Environmental Plan outlined in the
Bid's Candidature File. END SUMMARY.

2. Most of Russia is rejoicing over the successful Olympic bid to
host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Located on the Black
Sea, with the Western Caucasus Mountains as a backdrop, Sochi is a
resort city known for its unique environmental splendor.
Environmental concerns about the effect on the nearby national
reserve (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), a national park, and the
surrounding buffer zones have abounded since Sochi was short-listed
for the games. In the lead up to the OIC discussion, Greenpeace,
World Wildlife Fund, and other NGOs had highlighted the potential
environmental impact caused by the pending massive construction.
Despite the current festivities in Sochi, some Russians were
dismayed -- particularly environmentalists who worry the large scale
construction of sports facilities in the mountains and along the
Black Sea coast will cause severe damage to delicate ecosystems.

3. Prior to the official announcement, Greenpeace and other
environmental watch-groups had expressed concerns over Sochi as an
Olympic hopeful. Environmental groups said they hoped to minimize
the impact of the Games on the local flora and fauna. Additionally,
there were concerns over energy consumption, water use, waste
treatment, and traffic emissions. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said it
was worried about the future of one of the most valuable nature
areas of the Sochi national park, the Grushevaya Polyana, the
projected site of the bobsled and luge track routes and other sports
facilities. Construction of these facilities will inevitably lead to
forest logging and destruction of habitats of endangered species and
unique flora and fauna of the national park, according to statements
posted on the WWF website.

4. With the Olympic bid, the NGO community called for caution
concerning the environment in the region. Environmental NGOs also
said they fear that facilities at the Olympic village will disrupt
the traditional feeding and migration grounds of the brown bear and
red deer, and could also cause the destruction of rare flowers and
plants. The World Wildlife Fund requested that new protected areas
be created to compensate for the increasing human pressure on the
unique region's nature landscapes.

5. According to the Sochi 2014 Environmental Plan outlined in the
Bid's Candidature File, its three main action areas are
inclusiveness, environmental consciousness, and economic viability.
The Sochi Olympic Development Committee listed these conservation
goals:
- construction of a thermal power station;
- redevelopment of the surrounding area maintaining a balance
between natural and urban landscape;
- use of environmentally friendly and recycled construction
materials and renewable energy sources;
- use of vegetation on walls, roofs, attics, and balconies to
improve air and water quality and reduce energy consumption;
- upgrade and redesign of power substations and lines.

6. In addition to environmentally friendly construction procedures,
there are plans to address the natural environment by:
- preserving the original land surface;
- creating and enhancing animal habitats;
- rehabilitating the ecology in disturbed urban areas;
- developing environmental assessments and zoning improvements;
- holding public hearings to encourage transparency in development
activities.

Sochi is also planning on opening 20 natural gas stations to greatly
reduce car emissions in the region.

7. In Sochi they celebrated with early morning fireworks when the
IOC announcement was made at 5 a.m. local time. Developing the
region and upgrading Sochi to a world class resort is a federal
priority. The government had already planned to sink $12 billion
into the region with $7 billion from the federal budget and an
additional $5 billion from private sources. Despite holding 293
medals, Russia has never hosted the Winter Games and bringing the
2014 Winter Olympics to Sochi is a great point of pride for
President Putin. A skier himself, and someone who stresses the
importance of a healthy lifestyle, Putin clearly views the legacy of
a permanent winter sports training center in the region as
additional lustre.

8. With the Winter Olympics now a reality, Sochi officials will

MOSCOW 00003316 002.2 OF 002


begin to set their Environmental Plan in motion. The host city will
certainly benefit from increased employment opportunities, urban
development and improved infrastructure and a high-value commercial
real estate market. Steady implementation of the environmental
plan's milestones will be key to assuaging the fears of
environmental groups.

BURNS

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