June 2, 2008 / 3:10 PM / in 10 years

U.N. calls on Russia to alter plans

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s planned bobsleigh venue for the Sochi-2014 Winter Olympics poses an environmental threat, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said on Monday and asked organizers to seek alternative sites.

In a nine-page summary of its April inspection, the UNEP said Grushevy Ridge, where bobsleigh and an Olympic sub-village are due to be built, are home to endangered flora and fauna.

“Our view is that the currently planned locations may compromise other efforts to ensure the Games are environmentally friendly,” the UNEP said in the report.

“UNEP would like to encourage the partners in the Russian federation and the IOC to look into the suitability of alternative locations.”

Greenpeace Russia said in a press statement it had proposed 16 alternative sites to Grushevy Ridge.

“It is crucial that the Russian authorities and IOC recognize the need to protect Russia’s precious wild habitat and to move the Winter Olympics away from Grushevy Ridge,” said Greenpeace Russia World Heritage Coordinator Andrei Petrov.

As the official consultant to the International Olympic Committee for environmental protection up to and during the 2014 Olympic Games, the UNEP came to Sochi at the invitation of the Russian government to visit proposed venues and offer advice.

The report also suggested replacing Sochi’s 30-year-old sewage treatment plant and two 70-year-old landfills “prone to major ecological problems such as fires and leakage of hazardous waste seeping into surrounding areas”.

The Sochi-2014 Organising Committee said in a statement it had received the UNEP’s summary, but did not comment on the bobsleigh and sub-village recommendations.

“Sochi-2014’s plan to close its open landfill and create a modern waste management program earned particular praise in the summary,” the Organising Committee said.

Reporting by Chris Baldwin; Editing by Elizabeth Piper

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