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Putin agrees to move Olympic facilities due to ecological concerns

06/07/2008 17:27:19 world/sochi_olympics

July 2008: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has agreed to change the location of some of the facilities for the 2014 winter Olympics in after requests from WWF and other environmental organizations.

The bobsleigh, luge track and Olympic Village will no longer be constructed in the buffer zone of the Western Caucasus World Heritage Site as originally planned. "I consider it necessary to move these venues to another site", Putin said at a meeting with Russian Olympic officials in Sochi, the site for the 2014 winter Olympics.

"There's still a lot of work to be done because all facilities will be constructed in specially protected nature areas", says WWF-Russia CEO Igor Chestin, who took part in the Sochi meeting. "But the decision Putin has taken today will avoid the most serious threats to the environment".

Since July 2007, when Sochi was announced the winner of the Olympic bid for 2014, environmentalists have been urging the government to ensure that construction works would not destroy the environment. However, the bobsleigh and luge track and Mountain Olympic Village were to be constructed at one of the most valuable natural areas within the Sochi national park, the Grushevyi Ridge and river Pslukh watershed. Besides being located within the boundaries of Sochi National Park, this area is also part of the buffer zone of the World Heritage Site ‘Western Caucasus'.

Construction works in this part of Sochi national park would lead to forest logging and destruction of habitats and migratory routes of endangered species, with negative effect going far beyond the construction site itself.

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