The 2014 Winter Olympics are fast approaching. This gathering in Sochi, Russia, February 7–23 will test the ability of the international community both logistically and, more importantly, security-wise. Russia itself is no stranger to hosting high-visibility global events. But with the many changes in the world political scene, they are being kept up at night trying to anticipate every vulnerability.
This could prove to be an excellent opportunity for Russia, who is scheduled to host the 2018 World Cup finals, to show that they can provide a safe public environment for not only the athletes but the visiting public population. With all necessary security forces drawn to Sochi for these events, this could leave other regions and cities such as the Northern Caucasus, Moscow and St. Petersburg open to terrorism and organized criminal activity.
There are few countries in the world that could cover this extensive security problem adequately. All the eyes of the world will be on this event. This would present a very tempting target to those seeking the “free” world-wide advertising for their political view and/or cause. This type of opportunity to not only be seen on an international stage but also to be seen as effective against the best of security arrangements doesn’t come very often.
With the extent of Russian Security Forces, security at the Olympic Games will be multilayered and everywhere throughout Sochi. The Federal security Service of the Russian Federation, or FSB, is Russia’s primary resource. It is the successor of the KGB of the USSR, and the country’s chief counterterrorism agency. It has been tasked with guaranteeing security for the Sochi Olympics since 2010.
The FSB will provide over 10,000 security personnel to secure the surrounding region. The FSB will not be alone in the security plan:
- More than 40,000 police are expected to be on duty during the games and will be trained to converse with spectators in three languages other than Russian (English, French and German). They will also have a 24-hour hotline available for assistance. The mountainous belt from Sochi to Mineralnye Vody near the Olympic Mountain Cluster will utilize roughly 10,000 troops.
- Roughly 30,000 members of the armed forces will deploy to the Sochi area.
- The Russian Government has been thorough to implement a extensive security plan on land, sea and in the air.
- Russia’s 58th Army will be responsible for securing and supervising the southern border with Georgia.
- Surveillance for the games will include drones, reconnaissance robots, sonar systems and high-speed patrol boats.
- A computer system called Sorm will be upgraded and operational to monitor all Internet and communication traffic by Sochi residents, visiting competitors, and spectators during the Olympics in the hopes of intercepting any sensitive information that could help to avoid any potential disruptions.
Travel and transport restrictions will be implemented along with security “zones.” Restricted security zones will cover a large region outside the internal borders of Karachay-Chjerkessia. This is an area of roughly more than 322 kilometers, or 200 miles east of Sochi.
Of course the areas between Sochi and the Georgian territory of Abkhazia will be heavily monitored. All checkpoints at Sochi’s seaport, railway terminals, airport and national park will require both a transportation ticket and spectator pass/fan passport or Olympic accreditation.
Even with this level of security, certain areas will remain vulnerable to potential disruptive acts. Since the most efficient targets are areas of large concentrations of spectators and participants, these areas—including the Olympic Park, Sochi’s airport, and other open venues—will be the points of heaviest security attention. This means the areas at greatest risk are away from the areas of concentrated security, such as Moscow and the Northern Caucasus.
Due to the wide range of possible attack scenarios, hosting events like the Olympics and Paralympics is an extraordinary undertaking for any country. Russia will need all the help it can get (without sacrificing its pride).
It is being reported that Saudi Arabia in its recent invitation to Russian influence in the Middle East, has offered, as part of the deal, the guarantee of security at the Sochi Olympics. Actually they said there would be “no terrorist activity.”
With the Saudis requiring Russia to turn from their support of President Assad of Syria as part of the agreement, Russia is perplexed. They want to return to their super-power status. An Olympics that is pulled off without incident would help push them way down that road. President Assad must be feeling a slight cold draft from their main support to the north. Russia may not be able to turn down the Saudis’ offer.