SOCHI, Russia – According to the media reporting on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the city hosting the event is not as glamorous as the world expected it to be.
Before the event, there has been much speculation of what Sochi will bring to the table granting that the Winter Olympics this year is the most expensive in history. But, despite the amount of money spent on the Winter Olympics this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that migrant workers (mainly from Central Asia) have been exploited as they constructed the site of the world’s event.
“Exploitation faced by workers, including migrant workers, has included nonpayment of wages or excessive delays in payment of wages, including in some cases nonpayment of wages for weeks or months,” stated HRW in a report.
Probably the most chilling aspect of all of this is how the Russian government is now rounding up the migrant workers out of the country now that their services are no longer needed.
In another report, HRW claimed authorities in Russia are detaining “hundreds of migrant workers for alleged violations of migration or employment regulations” in “inhumane detention conditions.”
The 2014 Winter Olympics have also affected the lives of the Sochi residents. The humanitarian organization further claims members of the local population have fallen victim to forced evictions by the government so it can host the Games.
The report argues, “The Russian government has resettled some 2,000 families to make way for Olympic venues and infrastructure. In several cases, the government forcibly evicted families and demolished their homes without providing compensation.”
As for the families who received money from the government, HRW also argues, “[their]compensation did not reflect the full value of owners’ property.”
But, it was not until the launch of the 2014 Winter Olympics when the mainstream media gained access to the Russian city and provided more insight of the living conditions in Sochi. For example, The Huffington Post shared pictures on its website that depicted the disappointing features of the hotel rooms built specifically for the event.
Among some of the failures of the event, hotel rooms were left unfinished, cable modems were left dangling from the wall by technicians and some of the tap water is undrinkable because it is filthy. Some argue poverty in Sochi is not an excuse for these technical failures because the Russian government spent roughly $51 billion to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. However, according to The Sochi Project, poverty exists near where the Games are being held.
“On the other side of the mountains from Sochi is the Northern Caucasus, the poorest and most violent region of Russia,” stated the creators of the website.
Ultimately, Russia is responsible for the violations against migrants, the forced eviction of families in Sochi, and to an extent, the living conditions surrounding the location of the 2014 Winter Olympics. If the Russian government can afford to host the expensive event, it can afford to help reduce poverty in the region.
– Juan Campos
Sources: Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch, Huffington Post, The Sochi Project