Before July 2005, when Russia bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sochi was one of the country’s largest resort towns, sitting on the Black Sea just 27 miles north of Georgia. These DigitalGlobe satellite images provided to TIME—snapped between April 2005 and January 2014—show what happens when $50 billion is suddenly invested to transform into an Olympic host city.
Sochi now boasts world-class arenas, high-speed trains and glamorous housing. Six thousand athletes from 85 countries (in addition to 1,650 Paralympians from 45 countries) are due in town, and will be outnumbered by the tens of thousands of spectators, tourists and journalists who will capture their triumph or defeat. The competition is on track to become the most expensive—and warmest-ever Winter games—in history.
But more than half a decade of preparation hasn’t come without consequence: A $635 million highway on…
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