Sochi 2014: Big Cats Return to the Caucasus
On Saturday 19 September 2009, the Chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Jean-Claude Killy, and IOC Olympic Games Executive Director Gilbert Felli attended the release of two male Caucasian or Persian leopards into spacious pens in the Sochi National Park. Released into the pen by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the leopards, which were imported from Turkmenistan, will form part of an initial group of five leopards that will be used to try and reintroduce the species into this region of Russia following their disappearance from the area in the 1920s due to excessive hunting.
Following its Development
Speaking following the release, Killy said: “This will be a great environmental legacy from the Sochi Games. Prime Minster Putin and I were delighted to see these beautiful animals arrive at the reintroduction centre, as it is a project that we have both been following very closely since its inception nearly two years ago. The Sochi 2014 Organising Committee and the local government authorities know how much we at the IOC want organisers to treat the environment with respect when they are organising the Games, and this is an encouraging sign from our Russian friends.”
The reinsertion project, which is part of Sochi 2014’s environmental legacy and follows up on its commitment to not only protect but also enhance the unique environment in the Krasnodar region, will see the leopards live in a special centre for breeding and rehabilitation in the Sochi National Park, with their offspring being released into the wild in the Caucus nature reserve. Female leopards will arrive in due course, and experts believe that it will take 10 to 15 years to create a nucleus of the leopard population in the area. The areas where the leopards will be released in the future were all carefully chosen to resemble, as closely as possible, their habitat in Turkmenistan. The programme is being supported by WWF-Russia, private companies and a number of Russian government agencies.
Sochi was elected as the host city for the XXII Olympic Winter Games at the 119th IOC Session in Guatemala City on 4 July 2007. Sochi won the vote against the cities of Salzburg (Austria) and PyeongChang (Republic of Korea) in the second round of voting. The Russian city edged out PyeongChang by 51 votes to 47, with Salzburg having been eliminated in round one. The Sochi Games will play host to the seven Olympic Winter sports currently on the Olympic programme and will run from 7 to 23 February 2014.