Preparations for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games have been mired by controversy, and the latest cause for outrage is a temporary exhibit of two orca whales that were recently captured specifically for the international sporting event.
Last summer, a Russian company captured seven orcas in the sea of Okhotsk, just off the coast of northwest Japan, with plans to place the mammals at new aquariums being built across Russia.
The attraction during Sochi 2014 is being organized by private enterprise with the intention of entertaining and capitalizing on Olympic-time crowds.
The orcas, a young male and a young female, are believed to be in holding at a Moscow facility and will be flown to Sochi. A report by The Raw Story discloses the whales were scheduled to be flown into the Olympic host city in early-December, but the transfer might not have happened with the whales still located in Moscow.
It is unclear whether the whales will be transported to Sochi with less than two weeks until the start of the Games. Local animal activists suspect that a recently erected large inflatable building, measuring 37 by 68-metres, at a Sochi aquarium could be housing water tanks meant for the pair of orcas.
An online petition to stop the orca exhibit during Sochi 2014 has received more than 110,000 signatures to date.
Sochi 2014 has been plagued by severe security threats following the recent twin bombings in Volgograd and promises by terrorists to disrupt the Games, human rights concerns particularly with the the treatment of LGBT athletes and visitors, hasty and environmentally damaging Olympic construction, and low ticket sales for Games-time events.
There have also been reports of widespread corruption and unimaginable cost overruns that now peg the final cost of hosting the Games to $50-billion, making Sochi 2014 the most expensive Olympic quadrennial ever, both Winter and the much larger Summer edition. It somehow even surpasses the previous $40-billion record cost by Beijing for its extravagant 2008 Summer Olympics.
The Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony is scheduled to begin at 8:14 a.m. PST on Friday, February 7 and will be aired live on CBC.
Featured Image: Orca whale via Shutterstock