MOSCOW Russian environmentalists raised concerns Wednesday about plans for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, saying three construction projects could harm the mountainous area on the Black Sea.
Igor Chestin of the World Wildlife Fund expressed the most alarm about plans for the bobsled and luge tracks, which would require leveling a wide swath of forest.
"If the bobsled track cannot be moved, then the Olympics should not be held," he said at a news conference.
Environmentalists said construction of an Olympic village and a skating complex also threatened the ecosystem of the area, parts of which are included in UNESCO's Western Caucasus World Heritage Site.
The Sochi 2014 organizing committee defended the site for the bobsled and luge tracks, saying in a statement Wednesday that it had studied the environmental impact and found it acceptable.
Environmentalists raised the same concerns early in 2007 when the International Olympic Committee was assessing Russia's bid. Chestin said WWF's Russia office was promised a role in the decision-making process but was later shut out.
He said environmentalists learned recently from the Regional Development Ministry, which took over responsibility for Sochi's transformation in September, that the site for the bobsled track could not be changed.
Ivan Blokov, a representative for Greenpeace's Russia office, disagreed with the ministry's assessment. He told journalists Wednesday that early plans had listed at least 10 potential sites for the bobsled track.
The organizing committee denied the environmentalists had been left out of the decision-making process. Although the site has been approved, the committee plans to hold an international conference early next year at which environmentalists could discuss alternative views, the statement said.