This is Sochi. Or rather, this is the Sochi that the world will see during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
The domed structure at the centre is a gigantic skating centre, much like the Richmond Oval was the hub of Vancouver 2010.
The many red-roofed apartments seen here make up the athlete’s village, almost identical to the patch of buildings that make up Vancouver’s Olympic Village.
From these pictures Sochi seems like any normal Olympic host city. You could never tell that Sochi is the most expensive Olympic games to date. Why does Sochi need 51 billion US dollars to prepare for the Olympics?
Well, here is Sochi in 2007, only seven years ago from today. The entire Olympic Park was built from scratch.
This was what the city in the first picture looked like before construction. The jumble of uneven and colourful houses contained many happy memories for residents of Sochi. Although home to many, it was decided that this would the location for the upcoming Olympic games. Since then, these families have been displaced and forced to move from their homes.
In return for their homes, residents received nothing. Out of that $51 billion, no compensation at all was given to families who could only watch as their houses were torn down. Now, in addition to natural disasters and fires, citizens of Sochi add the Winter Olympics as another reason to mourn what was lost.
On the outskirts of the Olympic Park, other families still remain in their villages. Their lives have been changed as well, and not for the better. Villagers have had to endure living in the midst of construction and seeing their homes turned into giant landfills. Imagine having constant construction going on for years near where you spend most of your time…
Here is a landfill, only half a mile from the Olympic Park. A result of the endless construction going on, many more of these illegal garbage dumps can be found around the city. In fact, even Sochi National Park has been turned into a dump. Besides being a source of methane and contributing to global warming, these landfills could lead to the contamination of the groundwater supply for all of Sochi.
Meanwhile, Sochi prepares to present to the world the progress of Russia since the end of the Soviet Union. Enjoy the show while it lasts.
For more interesting discussions on Sochi, the Olympics and its impacts, check out Bartalk #10!