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Sochi and the Environment

With the 22nd Winter Olympics coming to a close on Sunday, it’s time to look back at how Canada faired during the Olympics.

Unlike in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver in which Canada placed 1st in the medal standings, Canada placed in 3rd overall, right behind Norway and the host country Russia. But the important games that all Canadians were waiting for was how the Canadians would fare in the Ice Hockey competitions. As every Canadian knows by now, both the men and women’s hockey team took home the gold, but not without difficulty and suspense.

womens hockey mens hockey

But the real story behind the Sochi Winter Olympics is the environmental impact that the Olympics had not only on Sochi, but also on Russia as a whole. As Erik Hoffner points out, these Winter Olympics were built on a maritime city, much like Vancouver, which for a Winter Olympics means a temperate climate and warm weather. The issues that Hoffner raises is that in such a temperate city, outdoor Winter Olympic events means that snow has to be “trucked and airlifted” into the city, increasing the costs and carbon output of a Winter Olympics already considered to be the most expensive ever. Other environmental issues that were raised by Hoffner were:

  • Illegal Olympic waste dump threatens Sochi’s national park
  • Olympic gas pipeline spills into Sochi’s National Park
  • The Russian Railways required for the Olympics destroyed clear mountain river in the national park with construction waste

These issues become highlighted especially after Russia promised that these Olympic games would be the “greenest Olympics” in history. Putin promised a “zero waste” Olympics, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Kevin Bullis of MIT Technology Review notes that these games emitted over 520 000 tons of carbon dioxide. Which, is equivalent to providing electricity to roughly 2 million people for the length of the games. Further, Sochi, unlike Vancouver or London, did not have the necessary infrastructure to host such an international event. Much of the buildings had to be built hastily, destroying much of the surrounding environment. The surrounding marshlands were destroyed to make room for the necessary buildings required to host an Olympic games, heavily disrupting the local wildlife and destroying the local ecosystems.

With Rio de Janeiro hosting the 2016 Summer Games and South Korea hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics, many eyes will be looking at how these cities/countries adapt to the ever changing climate change, with hopes that these next host countries learn from the mistakes made in Sochi. Until that time, Canada can settle in and celebrate their achievements made in these Olympics. To leave with, here’s an infographic of the cost of the Sochi Winter Games via Visual.ly.


Colin Daileda via Mashable.com

Erik Hoffner via Grist.org

Kevin Bullis via MIT Technology Review

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