Post-Olympic Sochi: legacies of uneven development in an aspiring consumption paradise

Authors: Sven Daniel Wolfe*, University of Lausanne
Topics: Russia, Urban and Regional Planning, Environment
Keywords: Russia, Mega-Events, Environment, Sochi, Olympics, Legacy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Balcony L, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Mega-events like the Olympics are translocal affairs, articulated in host cities but governed from afar and enrolling actors at different scales, and are commonly promoted as catalysts for urban regeneration (Poynter, Viehoff, and Li 2015; Coaffee 2010; Hiller 2000). Among the Russian government’s many rationales for hosting the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics was a large-scale regional development program that has more to do with infrastructure than sport (Golubchikov 2017). This plan involved developing the Sochi region into an all-season tourist destination to “support the population’s employment throughout the year” (Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee 2015, 13). Part of this project involved the replacement or repair of municipal services like water and waste systems – a real challenge, given the protected status of Sochi’s natural environment. Based on extensive fieldwork, documentary, and media analysis conducted before, during, and after the 2014 Winter Olympics, this examination covers three domains: a new waste processing facility, the issue of water quality and access to drinking water, and the tourist hotspots of Roza Khutor and the Black Sea beachfront. I detail the uneven outcomes of the regional development project and conclude that, while some areas have indeed been transformed into popular tourist destinations, this development is limited to a narrow consumerist vision, and that the project has taken place at huge environmental and social cost. In so doing, I pose broader questions about mega-event legacy and propose a more human-oriented process for considering translocal projects.

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