The Sochi Olympics Are Already Making Life Worse for Locals
Sochi, readying itself for what is expected to be the most expensive Olympics ever, has seen an incredible amount of new infrastructure go up. But not everyone is happy about it.
Stadiums, hotels, railways, bridges, and even illegal apartments have sprouted up around the coastal city of 343,000. But while athletes and spectators will get to enjoy these new facilities in less than a hundred days, many locals are facing difficulties that are a direct result of the new construction.
The problems are serious and wide-ranging, including disrupted water supplies, damaged homes (sometimes with no government compensation), and forced evictions. Residents in Sochi's Akhshtyr district say that the construction of railway and highway tunnels has even cut them off from public transit.
Reuters photographer Thomas Peter was in Sochi last month, documenting the stories of residents who must bear the consequences of Russia's eagerness to show the world how modern it has become:
Nadezhda Kukharenko, 77, talks during a village gathering to discuss water and infrastructure problems in Akhshtyr, a district of Sochi October 12, 2013. Residents of Akhshtyr say their wells have gone dry since the construction of railway and highway tunnels and the excavation of a stone quarry near the village, which produces gravel for the construction of Sochi 2014 Winter Games venues. They also say the construction of railway and highway tunnels next to their village has cut them off from public transport, forcing them to walk a 7km (4 mile) diversion. "I don't think about the Olympics, I think about how to survive the next winter," Kukharenko said. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
Villager Saven Topkaryan (R), his wife Irina (2nd R) and his son Grigory receive their weekly water delivery in the village of Akhshtyr, a district of Sochi October 13, 2013. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
Resident of Ternovaya Street Sedrak Torosyan (R), his daughter Margarita (L) and their neighbour Alvar Karabadzhakyan sit in their neighbourhood where landslides have damaged houses in Sochi October 7, 2013. Since the erection of pylons on the hill above their houses, which carry power lines supplying Olympic venues, the hillside has been gradually giving way, triggering landslides that have destroyed orchards and damaged buildings, rendering some of them uninhabitable, Ternovaya Street residents say. The Adler regional court dismissed the residents' request for compensation in 2012. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
A house damaged by a landslide is seen on Bakinskaya Street in Sochi October 5, 2013. The house at the top of the sloping Bakinskaya Street was damaged in 2010, trapping its inhabitants, who had to be rescued by emergency services, neighbor Tatiana Skiba, said in an interview. Skiba blames the landslide on a dump further up the hill that is used by a construction company, involved in Sochi's pre-Olympic Games building boom. She says the city authorities deny any connection between the landslide and the dump. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
Tatiana Skiba sits between her two houses, both damaged by a landslide on Bakinskaya Street in Sochi October 5, 2013. In 2010, a landslide made Skiba's smaller house uninhabitable, so her family moved into a new one next door, which was still under construction. That house is now also sinking on its foundations. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
Alexei Kravets leaves the trailer where he keeps belongings he saved from destruction after being forcibly evicted from his home in Sochi, October 6, 2013. Kravets battled eviction for over a year until he was forcibly evicted, his belongings thrown into the street and his house demolished in 2012, he said in an interview. He has not received compensation, he said, adding he has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to consider his case. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
Andrey Martynov sits on a stool, one of his few remaining pieces of furniture, as he poses for a picture near the site of his former property that now lies within the boundaries of the Olympic Park in Sochi October 5, 2013. Martynov was granted temporary shelter at a Soviet era tourist hostel, where he shares an eight square-meter room with his wife. Martynov says he was first deprived of his land by a real estate agent who cheated him with fake land-survey documents. During litigation, he ultimately lost his property to the state corporation responsible for building the Olympic Village in Sochi's Adler district. He said he has not received any compensation for his loss and city authorities deny registration at the hostel, rendering him legally homeless. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
Andrey Martynov overlooks the courtyard of the former Soviet tourist hostel that serves as his temporary home after he lost his property during Olympic construction in Sochi October 5, 2013. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
A man walks past an illegal housing development in Sochi October 7, 2013. In the shadow of official competition venues and hotels that are being built for the Sochi 2014 Winter Games, scores of illegal construction sites for apartments have sprung up all over the city, adding to the huge amount of building work already taking place there. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
Workers remove a window in an illegal housing development in Sochi October 8, 2013. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
The window of an illegal housing development overlooks the Olympic Park in Sochi October 8, 2013. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
A worker watches an excavator demolishes an illegal housing development in Sochi October 9, 2013. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
A man walks past new apartment high-rises in the formerly low-scale district of Golubye Dali in Sochi November 1, 2013. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
A birds-eye view shows the recently completed neighborhood of Nekrasovka bordering the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Park in Sochi October 10, 2013. The residents of Nekrasovka were resettled from Imeretinskaya Bay, a former Old Believer settlement that had to make way for the coastal cluster of the Olympic Park. All that remains of the historic home of the adherents of this purist Orthodox faction is a graveyard that is now sandwiched between Olympic venues. The Old Believers and other residents of Imeretinskaya received single detached houses, varying in size according to the amount of land they used to own. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)