Why sustainability went wrong in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi (2015)

Sustainability knowledge is often shared from one organization to another. This is especially true in the context of the Olympic Games where organizers share their knowledge on sustainability efforts with organizers of future editions of the Games.


Through 51 interviews with IOC staff and Olympic Games organizers, observations, and document analysis this paper discusses how sustainability policy in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games was unable to attain all of the sustainability promises made in the initial bid for the Winter Games. Specifically, this paper examines how sustainability policy was mobilized (or immobilized) through transportation of sustainability knowledge to Sochi from previous Games, transformation of that sustainability knowledge and policy into the Sochi Winter Games context, and lastly the translation of those policies into action (and inaction).


Ultimately, the reason for the failings of sustainability policy in the Sochi Winter Games may relate to dysfunctional governance, lack of institutional controls, time pressures, and scaling issues, which led to irreversible environmental damage, excessive scoping of the Games to be too large for their community, limited engagement with the public by the organizing committee, limited benefits to the host community, and a limited focus on showcasing sustainability in only the most high profile buildings and methods.


CITE: Müller, M. (2015). (Im-)Mobile policies: Why sustainability went wrong in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. European Urban and Regional Studies, 22(2), 191–209.

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