Sochi Winter Olympics Security in Question

In a few weeks, the 2014 Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia. The games take place Feb. 7–23, and they mark only the 22nd Winter Olympics. The question that is stuck in the minds of millions around the world is whether or not the athletes and public will be able to enjoy the event safely this year.

One of the major concerns for this year’s games pertains to the location of Sochi. In the article “What You Need To Know About Security Concerns At The Sochi Winter Olympics,” Hayes Brown states, “This year’s Winter Olympics are taking place nearby one of the most restive areas within the Russian Federation. The states of Dagestan and Chechnya both lie beyond the Caucasus mountain range from Krasnodar Krai, home to Sochi, and that is what has Russian officials the most concerned.” Both of these states boast a majority Muslim population that has literally gone to war with the Russian government for independence and to escape Russian rule. Many of the Olympic committees are concerned with the hostile environment during the coming Olympics.

Terrorist organizations in the area are causing many of the security concerns for this year’s Olympics. One of the most significant of these organizations is the Caucasus Emirate which Hayes describes as “a conglomeration of various rebel groups that seeks to establish a new state composed of the Muslim areas currently within Russia.” Russia, Britain, Hungary, Italy and Germany are among the countries whose Olympic Games Committees have received terror threats to those who come to Sochi. However, Sky News states that the majority of these countries have found these threats “not credible.”

Recent attacks in cities near Sochi have shown that these threats by terrorist organizations in the area are real and sometimes cannot be prevented. Russia was struck by two suicide bomb attacks at the end of 2013, one that resulted in the death of over thirty people and injured dozens. A bomb was also recently detonated at a train station in Volgograd, Russia. With the precarious location of Sochi, this writer begins to wonder why Sochi was even considered for this year’s games. In an interview with a current Shepherd student, I asked if she believed that the guests and the athletes of this year’s Olympics would be safe. She replied, “I really don’t think so. They said that the 1972 Olympics would be safe in Munich, but that didn’t stop the Palestinian group ‘Black September’ from breaking into the Israeli dormitories and killing 11 Israeli Olympians.”

Another student stated, “We thought we would be safe on our own soil during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta but there was still a bombing. With all of the money that they have spent, I believe that they will be able to keep the area secure within the facility, but nothing is foolproof.”

In an article by Laura Smith-Spark and Catherine E. Shoichet titled “Sochi Winter Olympics: Video threat emerges amid security concerns,” Russian President Vladimir Putin stated, “We will try to make certain that the security measures are not intrusive or too conspicuous, so they are not too noticeable for the athletes, the Olympics’ guests or journalists… But at the same time, we will do our utmost to ensure that they are effective.” Putin also stated, “Security is to be ensured by some 40,000 law enforcement and special services officers.” Smith-Spark and Shoichet state, “In addition to Russia’s security preparations, the United States will have up to two warships and several aircraft transports on standby just in case.”

With security measures increased to the point that all participants of this year’s games are becoming more concerned with their safety than the games, many are beginning to question the overall safety of this year’s Olympics. The Olympic Games were designed to be a peaceful, international athletic competition, but it appears that many spectators and athletes may be more mindful of their safety rather than the competitions. This has led many, including myself, wondering, “Why Sochi?”

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