Sochi’s Olympic make-over comes after years of construction work in and around the city. Many residents in the region say they’re paying the price for the Games.
Excerpts, NBC– “Atop a small mountain ridge just outside Sochi, 73-year-old Nadezhda Kuharenko’s small house stands in the middle of a vegetable garden.
“It’s like paradise here,” she said looking across the valley lined by green trees, snow-covered mountains in the horizon.
But her paradise is crumbling. Ever since construction for the Olympics began in 2009, huge trucks with heavy equipment have rumbled past her house in the village of Akhshtyr, leading to cracks in her home’s walls and a leaky roof.
Kuharenko is holding on, patching the roof with plastic foil and the walls with cardboard to keep the rain and wind out. But it’s barely working; her furniture has been ruined. Her pension of 6,800 rubles (about $200 a month) is not enough to fix her house.
“You can’t save anything from this pension, it’s not even enough for new clothing, barely enough for food,” she said. “And food has gotten more expensive since the Olympics have been announced.”
“I got nothing from the Olympics, just a crumbling house and health problems,” Kuharenko said.
Hers is not an isolated case. Villagers said that nearly all their houses have cracks as heavy trucks — as many as 250 per day — rumbled through the main street.
And they say they have been cut off from the neighboring village across the valley by the newly built Olympic road and railway.
Environmental activist Olga Noskovets, a member of “Green Russia,” an ecological faction of Russia’s Yabloko Party, said that the affected community members have a difficult time receiving help from authorities.
“In my experience, [authorities] do their best to gain time and complicate the process, which includes gathering costly and time-consuming expert reports to prove the damage,” she said.
Irina Vorovchkova even sued Olympstroi, the Russian state corporation overseeing all construction projects for Sochi 2014, over damages to her house.
She lost — and claimed the local courts are biased toward the Olympics.
“You don’t want to mess with the Olympic Committee,” she said. “The government doesn’t care, Putin just wants things to be his way. We are waiting, maybe after the Olympics we get some compensation.”