The Sochi Games are reportedly the most expensive Winter
Olympics ever, by some estimates costing as much as
$51 billion. With all that money flowing around, you might
assume life is improving for the people who live in the area.
The residents of 5a Akatsy
Street have lived for years with no running water or sewage system.
Construction for the 2014 Winter Games has made their lives more
miserable: The new highway has cut them off from the city center.
Even their communal outhouse had to be torn down because it was
found to be too close to the new road and ruled an eyesore.
The slum is one of the many facets of a hidden dark side in the
host city of this month’s Winter Olympics, which stands
side-by-side with the glittering new construction projects that
President Vladimir Putin is touting as a symbol of Russia’s
transformation from a dysfunctional Soviet leviathan to a
successful, modern economy. While state-run TV trains its cameras
on luxury malls, sleek stadiums and high-speed train links,
thousands of ordinary people in the Sochi area put up with squalor
and environmental waste: villagers living next to an illegal dump
filled with Olympic construction waste, families whose homes are
sinking into the earth, city dwellers suffering chronic power cuts
despite promises to improve electricity.
Putin promoted the Sochi Games, which begin Friday, as a unique
opportunity to bring investment to the Black Sea resort and improve
living standards for its 350,000 residents. Looking back at those
promises, many residents, weary from years of living in the midst
of Russia’s biggest construction project in modern history, say
they have yet to see any improvement in their lives and point to an
array of negative effects.
“Everyone was looking forward to the Olympics,” said Alexandra
Krivchenko, a 37-year-old mother of three who lives on Akatsy
Street. “We just never thought they would leave us bang in the
middle of a federal highway!”
Elsewhere in Reason: Why no sane city should want to
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