Olympics

Money Pours Into Sochi, and Life Gets Worse for the People Who Live There

Behind the Olympic façade.

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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. Guess again:

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Vasily Slonov

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 host the Olympics.