Sochi's Olympic Security Issues

Sochi's Suspected Security Concerns

With less than a week until the opening ceremony, fears over attacks at or near the Olympic Games in Sochi are rising. In reality, most Olympic Games include some sort of security concerns and almost all come to pass without any substantive issues. This time something is different. Security issues have been at the forefront of all Olympic discussions and some countries are even considering keeping their delegations at home. The Olympics are supposed to be a time for joy and celebration, but this year's Winter Games are marked with fear.

Why Worry?

I have to start off by admitting that quite often these days the news will report almost anything. If nothing of interest is happening, they will play on fear tactics to increase viewership. At first, I really thought that this was what was happening regarding the Olympics. I assumed that the media was making a big fuss about nothing. But I kept listening.

I started researching the Sochi games and listening to NPR reports and some of the things that I discovered really surprised me. One of the biggest shocks for me is what has become known as the "Ring of Steel." Russia has literally constructed a giant fence around the entire Olympic Village and mountain venue sites. This seemed like a huge red flag for me for a couple of reasons. The first is that Russians are so worried about the games that they had to create a physical barrier of separation between the Olympics and everything else. The second reason this is a problem is that the "Ring of Steel" only protects the games, which means that anytime tourists or athletes wander into Sochi either to visit their hotel or simply walk around they have left the security ring! This seems like a problem to me.

Another issue for me is that Russia has created some stringent restrictions on who can enter Sochi, but they themselves still admit to being worried. At present in order to even enter the city of Sochi you must be a registered Olympic spectator or a resident of the city. Otherwise you literally cannot enter Sochi at all. But despite this, Russians and international security forces are still concerned about "Black Widows," female suicide bombers who may have gained early entry into the city. 

Unstable Surroundings

Perhaps the most critical issue surrounding the games is that of regional security surrounding Sochi. Unfortunately for the Russians, much of this region of the country is in rebellion. The states of Dagestan and Chechnya are more or less fighting an open war against the Russian government. Essentially the situation looks something like this. The Olympics are on the far left of the screen and the area that is rebelling is shown in the box to the right. 

Everyone hopes that the Olympics go off without a hitch, but this should be a time of reflection for everyone. We should not live in a world where terror and fear dominate one of our most cherished global traditions.