Current Affairs

The ultimate vanity project


A truly depressing piece over at The Economist about the Winter Olympics to be held in Sochi. It sounds like a complete vanity project for Putin and is simultaneously destroying the environment and the lives of construction workers unfortunate to be contributing to the project.

The quality of the work is patchy. The ski jump has been redone many times, and the cost has risen sevenfold. Newly laid sewage pipes have burst, so a nasty smell drifts over a kindergarten playground. Sea-coast fortifications cracked soon after installation. The work has been carried out with little concern for the environment. The river flowing into the Black Sea has been polluted by construction waste and protected forests have been cut down. A green whistle-blower was prosecuted and chased out of Russia.

The attitude towards workers is little better. Low-skilled migrants get $500 a month, working 12-hour shifts with no contracts, safety training or insurance. Even so, wages are not always paid in full, are often delayed and sometimes not paid at all, according to Human Rights Watch. Some employers withhold workers’ passports, so they cannot leave the site. Last year at least 25 people died in accidents and many more were injured. “Perhaps I would be more enthusiastic about the Olympic games if they treated me better,” comments one worker.

The rest of the article doesn’t read much better and is well worth a few minutes of your time. How Russia was awarded this Winter Olympic Games, in a venue that doesn’t even get much snow, smacks of dishonesty and bribery.

In many ways Sochi is an odd choice for the winter games. It has a subtropical climate and is one of the very few places in Russia where snow is scarce. The opening and closing ceremonies will be held close to the Black Sea on swampy ground, once infested by malarial mosquitoes. Temperatures there rarely fall below zero. The lower slopes of the Caucasus Mountains are not guaranteed snow, so the organisers have stored last winter’s.

I’m sure the Olympic committee awarding the games had their reasons.

*Shakes head, sadly*

1 comment on “The ultimate vanity project

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