White Asbestos Payday
When the 2018 Football World Cup was awarded to Russia on December 2, 2010 the country's asbestos producers must have thought that Christmas had come early. Russia is the world's largest producer of chrysotile asbestos (white asbestos), with an annual output of 1,000,000 tonnes. National consumption per year is 276,820 tonnes, much of which goes into the manufacture of asbestos-cement building products.
There is every chance that asbestos-cement products are being used in the construction of buildings and infrastructure for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Whereas China and India, ranked first and second for their annual usage of chrysotile, banned asbestos in high profile international projects in 2008 and 20101, it is not certain that Russia will follow suit given the powerful influence of vested asbestos interests who have connections at the highest levels of the Russian government.
If there is to be a Sochi payday for chrysotile sellers it would pale into insignificance compared to the money to be made from the World Cup. The tournament will be hosted at 16 stadium in 13 cities throughout the country; as well as new sporting infrastructure, new hotels, airports, roads and a high-speed rail network, to link the host cities with the Russian capital, will be needed. Russia plans to build 4,791 miles of road and lay 1,257 miles of rail track by 2018 at a cost of £22 billion ($35 bn).2 A commentator writing for the Russian daily newspaper Vedomosti has predicted that the final bill for the World Cup could reach £31.6 bn ($50 bn). This, say critics, is a big potential pay day for corrupt officials as well as for the country's mafia. There can be little doubt that Russia's asbestos businessmen and their political supporters would expect to get their cut.
December 13, 2010
1 Kazan-Allen L. Why No Asbestos at Commonwealth Games? October 4, 2010.
2 Osborn A. World Cup 2018: Troubled times at Russia's other great international sporting venue. December 5, 2010.