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Playlist: Olympics

Compiled By: PRX Editors

 Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/pagedooley">Kevin Dooley</a>
Image by: Kevin Dooley 
Curated Playlist

Stories about summer and winter Olympics.

These are picks chosen by PRX editorial staff. You can see all Olympics pieces on PRX by using our search.

Sochi 2014 Olympic Building Boom

From Julia Barton | 05:24

Russia's southern-most city of Sochi is gearing up to host the Winter Olympics in 2014. Russian president Vladimir Putin says hosting the Games is a long-time dream for his country, but many Sochi residents say Olympic construction has become a nightmare.


Sochi 2014: Building Boom for Winter Olympics Leaves Some Behind

By Julia Barton March 26, 2012

Katya Davidenko sits with a group of students who study English at a college in the Russian resort city of Sochi. She said she’s excited for the day when thousands of athletes and spectators from around the world will descend on her hometown for the 2014 Winter Games.

“Before Olympic Games were announced, I felt like I will leave this city and go and live somewhere else,” Davidenko said. “But now, when I see what is happening here, I obviously will stay here.”

But not all the students share Davidenko’s enthusiasm. Diana Kozlova, who recently got married, said rents are going up quickly and she can’t afford to start a family.

“The local people can’t live here because life in Sochi has become very expensive,” she said.

Whether Sochi is getting better or worse as a result of the coming Olympics, one thing is certain — this once sleepy resort town will never be the same.

Almost every corner of Sochi now bears the marks of massive construction. New hotels and condos sprout from the hillsides. The Russian government is building new highways and some 30 miles of light rail. The construction requires multiple tunnels through solid rock.

Sochi’s facelift has officially cost the Russian government at least $10 billion, and state-controlled companies like Gazprom have spent billions more constructing hotels and resorts in the area.

Russia has pledged that Sochi 2014 will be the greenest Olympics yet, but the environmental groups Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund have already pulled out of an agreement to monitor the construction. They say the government largely ignored their recommendations.

They’re especially concerned about unofficial dumps springing up in Sochi.

Tatiana Skyba lives in the hills above the new Olympic ice skating and hockey arenas. She says one night last April, she and her neighbors were awoken by a terrible noise. Their houses shook as if in an earthquake. It was a landslide.

Skyba said her house was knocked off its foundations. The city gave her and her neighbors some money to build new homes. But those houses have started sinking at strange angles. The ground is still moving, and residents now blame a large dump up the hill. They say trucks bring loads of concrete rubble there every day.

City officials say there’s no connection between the dump and the sinking of nearby homes. Still, Sochi has seen an increase in landslides since Olympic construction began.

Meanwhile, Skyba and her neighbors are stuck in their tilted houses above the gleaming Olympic park.

“We have this joke among us on the street,” Skyba said. “By the time the Olympics start, we won’t have to buy tickets. We’ll have already slid down there.”

At least Skyba still lives in her old neighborhood. About a thousand Sochi families have had to move because of the Olympics. That number of evictions is small compared with other places that have hosted recent “mega sports events.” The UN Human Rights Council found that the 2008 Beijing Olympics prompted at least 6,000 evictions.

In a statement, the International Olympic Committee said that it takes the issue of relocation very seriously.

“A certain number of relocations have been necessary for the construction of Olympic venues, and Sochi 2014 and the government has assured us that people are being fairly compensated in line with Russian law,” the IOC said.

While the IOC said it has met with some of the displaced families in Sochi, it hasn’t spoken with one man there who’s been in a standoff with Russian authorities.

Aleksei Kravets stands in front of his home on the Black Sea in Adler. (Photo: Julia Barton)

Alexei Kravets stands in front of his home on the Black Sea in Adler. (Photo: Julia Barton)

Alexei Kravets has been living in one room of his house on the Black Sea coast. He’s been without water, gas or electricity for five months, since the city demolished the rest of his neighborhood to make way for a new rail yard. His cinderblock house is surrounded by mud and rubble, and he’s painted slogans like “IOC help!” and “SOS!” in red on all the windows.

“In the evening, a backhoe comes up to the house and starts to scrape the concrete just to pressure me psychologically,” Kravets said. “If I left the place for, like, 15 minutes, they’d tear it down right away.”

Kravets said the backhoes have damaged the walls and he’s afraid the house could collapse on him. He’s refused the government’s offer of an apartment three miles from the coast. He’s a lawyer, and he’s appealed to Russian and European courts for help, but has gotten no ruling.

“We never asked anything from the state,” Kravets said. “We built the house all by ourselves, and now the state is taking it away from us.”

Kravets pulled out a small laptop and showed a video he made. Recently he put some of his belongings into a metal storage unit behind his house to save them from demolition. Construction workers immediately showed up with a crane to take the unit away.

“Where do you work?” Kravets demanded of the supervisor in the video. “Where are your orders to remove my things?”

“We are building Olympic facilities,” the man said. Kravets again asked for court papers, but the man brushed him off.

“It’s a government decision,” the man said.

Fastest On Earth Hour Long Program

From Spectrum Radio | Part of the Fastest On Earth series | 59:03

IEEE Spectrum Radio takes your listeners around the globe to find the fastest things on earth.

Ieee Olympic Gold Medal winner and world record holder Usain "Lightning" Bolt is the fastest human on Earth, but what's the fastest fish?  Fastest car?  Fastest train? As a prelude to this summer's Olympic Games, IEEE Spectrum Radio takes your listeners around the globe to find the fastest on earth.

Go For It: Life Lessons From Girl Boxers

From WNYC | 57:00

This year women will enter the Olympic boxing ring for the first time. Hosted by actor Rosie Perez and producer Marianne McCune, "Go for It" explores why women fight and why we expect them not to. A compelling hour of radio that is perfect for airing before or during the Olympic Games. The opening ceremony is July 27 and the women's boxing competition begins on August 5th and runs through August 9th. This is sound rich and provocative sports reporting that you won't want public radio listeners to miss.


If you box, by definition, you’re a risk-taker. If you’re a girl and you box, you’re a risk-taker and a rule-breaker. If you’re a girl and you box and your aim is to be the first to win an Olympic gold medal - that’s going for it. Who does that and why?

 Go For It: Life Lessons from Girl Boxers , is a one hour special that tells  the story of women for whom boxing is an expression of ambition, drive, strength and – yes – aggression, qualities often admired in men and sometimes discouraged in women. 

The special is the next logical step for Women Box, our series with photojournalist Sue Jaye Johnson (and in collaboration with the New York Times Magazine and Radio Diaries) chronicling the lives of a group of fighters who’ve spent the year competing to become the first women to box in the Olympic Games.

Go For It will take listeners inside the hearts and minds of girls and women who are not afraid to defy expectations, take chances and fight to become ‘the greatest.’ When Tyrieshia Douglas says, “It’s against the rules to have as many muscles as I have,” she’s daring the rules to stop her. And when Claressa Shields, at 16, asks members of a church in Flint, Michigan for a few hundred dollars so she can get to the next boxing tournament, her dream of an Olympic gold medal seems both impossible and inevitable.

We  follow the ever-confident Claressa, now 17, to Qinhuangdao, China where she fights to qualify for the Olympics.

Finally, there’s the sobering backdrop: brain scientists are finding increasingly stark evidence that repeated blows to the head cause a long list of problems later on, from death to memory loss and depression. Most boxers, men or women, will tell you, ‘it’s not going to happen to me.’ Go For It will look at the risks to women who are embracing a sport increasingly criticized for exposing participants to serious injury.

Whether you love or hate boxing, Go For It aims to draw you into a deeply compelling conversation about what it means to be a girl and what it takes to be a champion. 

Co-Produced by the award-winning reporter/producer of Living Nine Eleven , Marianne McCune has developed an intimate and powerful style of story telling you won't want to miss. 

Promo available now.  Embeddable slideshows on website.

Check out these websites for more details: 


Olympics for the Rest of Us

From Big Picture Science | Part of the Big Picture Science series | 54:01

It’s easy to praise the extraordinary abilities of the athletes. Let’s celebrate the extreme averageness of the rest of us. From beer bellies to backaches, we’re all winners in the Darwinian Olympics.


Let the games begin! The mad dash to the phone … the sudden spring out of bed … the frantic juggling of car keys, grocery bags and a cell phone! Olympic athletes may have remarkable speed and strength, but it’s easy praise the extraordinary. Here’s to the extreme averageness of the rest of us. From beer bellies to aching backs, we’re all winners in the Darwinian Olympics just by virtue of being here.

Identify the one physical trait that you share with all Olympians – your head – and why it’s a remarkable human evolutionary achievement. Plus, the role of genes in putting on the pounds … and what event Spiderman would enter to win the gold.


   Daniel Lieberman – Professor of human evolutionary biology, Harvard University, author of The Evolution of the Human Head

   Callum Ross – Professor of organismal biology and anatomy, University of Chicago

   Kelly Brownell – Psychologist, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University

   Robert Peaslee – Assistant professor, College of Media and Communications, Texas Tech University and author of Web-Spinning Heroics: Critical Essays on the History and Meaning of Spider-Man

The Olympic Games: Who Wins?

From Making Contact | 29:01

The Olympic Games have grown into a multibillion dollar industry. Who wins, and who loses, when the Olympics come to town? We take you to Vancouver, London, and Denver -- the only city to ever turn down the Olympics.

Episode_pic_for_29-12_small The Olympic Games have grown into a multibillion dollar industry.  But with that growth comes concerns about the negative effects of the event on the people and places where the Games take place. On this edition, we ask who wins, and who loses, when the Olympics come to town? Vancouver 2010.  London 2012.  And Denver, the only city to ever turn down the Olympics.

Program #29-12
Begin date 7/18/12 End date 01/28/13.

Total run time is 29 minutes (no hard breaks)
-Optional cutaway at 1:00
-Optional (floating) cutaway between 12:00 and 20:00
-Music in/out.

Promo available from http://www.radioproject.org/sound/2012/MakingCon_120718_promo.mp3

Please call us if you carry us - 510-251-1332 - and we will list your station on our website. If you excerpt, please credit early and often. 

The Men Behind the Olympic Curtain

From KSFR | Part of the Equal Time with Martha Burk series | 02:30

For the first time in history, women outnumbered men on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, and even bested the men in gold medals. This year in Sochi the gender ratio slipped a little. With 105 women and 125 men, women make up 45% of the team, even though ski jumping is open to females for the first time.

Podcastphoto_small Women have reached near-parity on the Olympic team, but if you look behind the numbers for women athletes, you see that the Olympics are still very much an old boys club when it comes to the ruling bodies that control the games. And that may be why sexism is still rampant.

London Calling

From Francesca Panetta | Part of the The Hackney Podcast series | 25:40

Away from the fanfare and voices of the venues of the Games she ventures through the capital, listening in to its voices and stories to hear its murky and varied past. Can a city retain a memory, and if so what does it sound like?

Img_1543_small As part of BBC World Service's London Season, Francesca Panetta brings us London Calling. Away from the fanfare and voices of the venues of the Games she ventures through the capital, listening in to its voices and stories to hear its murky and varied past. Can a city retain a memory, and if so what does it sound like? 


StoryCorps: José Rodriguez and Charles Zelinsky

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 01:57

José Rodriguez tells his former coach Charles Zelinsky how he got involved in the Special Olympics.


When he was a teenager, José Rodriguez was kicked out of public school.

He was diagnosed with a learning disability and sent to a school for students with special needs.

This qualified him to participate in the New Jersey Special Olympics -- any child or adult with an intellectual disability can take part.

At StoryCorps, José told his former coach Charles Zelinsky what his life was like before he found the games.

José is now a Special Olympics basketball coach -- and will be coaching during the 2012 New Jersey Summer Games.

Citius, Altius, Fortius, Horrendius

From Nate DiMeo | Part of the the memory palace series | 06:56

in which we here the outrageous story of the third olympic marathon--the first event of the 1904 St. Louis Olympics.