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You're reading: Ella Skybenko: Are companies involved with 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi wilfully ignoring human rights?

The abuses have included exploitation of workers engaged in Olympic construction; illegal dumping of construction waste threatening residents’ health & safety; evictions and displacement to make way for Olympic venues, sometimes without fair compensation; refusal to relocate people whose homes have been severely damaged or affected by the construction; and pressure on and harassment of environmental and human rights activists and journalists who criticise Olympic preparations or the government anti-gay policy. Both state-owned and private companies are involved in many of these abuses. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has tracked the allegations of abuse, campaigns, and responses (also available in Russian). It also features reports of firms sponsoring the Olympics, such as AT&T, who have taken a public stand against Russia’s anti-gay legislation. We are adding new reports & coverage on an ongoing basis. 

As part of research for a 2013 report on exploitation of migrant workers engaged in Olympic construction, Human Rights Watch (HRW) sent letters to 11 companies involved in the construction requesting their response to the documented allegations. Five companies provided written responses, claiming that they were not aware of any abuses and complied with human rights principles. For instance, Engeocom Association said that it “regularly undertakes inspections of the respect for rights of migrant workers” and is “not aware of these instances of violations of migrant workers’ rights”. Despite testimonies of 66 migrant workers interviewed by HRW to the contrary, none of the 11 companies acknowledged that abuses did take place. 

That reflects a regrettable pattern of neglect and evasion. HRW also urged the main corporate sponsors of the Sochi Games, known as TOP Sponsors – Atos, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, General Electric, McDonald’s, Omega, Panasonic, Procter & Gamble, Samsung and Visa – to speak out against the rights abuses. Eight of the ten TOP Sponsors provided written responses, saying that they raised concerns with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and some made general public statements against discrimination. However, none of them agreed to urge the IOC to press Russia to repeal the shameful anti-gay law. 

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