Column: Threats by militants highlight security issues in Sochi Olympics

  • Article by: TIM DAHLBERG , AP Sports Columnist
  • Updated: July 6, 2013 - 4:00 PM

Until recently, the most interest about the Black Sea resort of Sochi was the staggering $51 billion tab the Russians are picking up to host the Winter Olympics in President Vladimir Putin's backyard.

It's a pricey party that will go down as the most expensive Olympics in history. It's also a pet project for Putin, whose prestige will be on the line in February when the traveling carnival show that is the Olympics takes place just a snowball's throw from his luxurious presidential palace.

And, despite pledges by Russia to make the games "the safest Olympics in history,'" it's also the biggest target imaginable in a region unsettled by an Islamist insurgency.

If the prospect of going for the gold in Sochi wasn't making Olympians nervous before, it should be now. Anyone planning to watch the show might think twice, too, no matter how often Russian authorities assure everyone that things will be just fine.

That was made clear this week when a top Chechen rebel warlord called on militants to disrupt the Olympics, describing them as "satanic dances on the bones of our ancestors." Doku Umarov told his followers to do everything possible to cause havoc at the games, a particularly chilling statement considering his group is blamed for bombing a Moscow airport, two subway stations and a train in different attacks over the last three years.

The response to the threat was both predictable and quick, with organizers and government officials saying 37,000 police officers and a complex and multilayered security system will protect both athletes and spectators in Sochi and its surrounding mountains.

"We get threats before every Olympics," former Olympian Jean-Claude Killy, who heads the International Olympic Committee coordination commission for Sochi. "This cannot be taken lightly. I think the Russians are well equipped to face the challenge."

They may well be. Olympic security has been an evolving science since Palestinian terrorists massacred Israeli athletes after invading the Olympic village in Munich in 1972. Aside from the bombing in Atlanta in 1996 that killed one person, the games have for the most part been extremely safe.

And, so far at least, U.S. athletes aren't exactly panicking about the prospects of competing in Sochi.

"At this point we haven't had anyone express concern," said Patrick Sandusky, spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee. "Security is always a top concern for us and our athletes and we take it all very seriously."

Still, you have to wonder whose idea it was to plunk an Olympics into a region beset by an insurgency — no matter how much money is spent to protect it. The Russians will undoubtedly pull out all stops to make the games secure — athletes at test events in January and February talked about patrols of guards with assault rifles — but these won't exactly be the laid-back Winter Games of 2010 in Vancouver.

Security questions weren't even at the top of the list when Sochi won the Olympics in 2007, beating out Pyeongchang, South Korea, and Salzburg, Austria, in a secret vote by IOC members. Putin traveled to the meeting in Guatemala to personally lobby the members and lead the final presentation.

But the Islamic insurgency active in the North Caucasus mountains that tower over the seaside resort of Sochi presents a very real challenge, even for a security plan backed by the full weight of the Russian government. The two Chechen brothers charged with the Boston Marathon bombings showed that rudimentary bombs that are relatively easy to make can cause terrible damage even in a tightly secured area.

Big sporting events can make attractive targets, and they don't get any bigger than an Olympics. Thankfully, Sochi has something going for it that Rio won't when Brazil hosts the Summer Olympics in 2016 — a government security apparatus devoted to making the games incident free.

You won't see it while watching on television and, in the end, the Olympics are just one long television show. Assuming there is snow in the mountains — another worry of the games — Sochi should look beautiful on TV and Putin will realize his goal of showcasing the aging resort city to the world.

No, it may not be the wisest place to hold an Olympics. But Olympic officials don't always make the wisest choices.

____

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Toronto 1 Top 5th Inning
NY Yankees 1
Washington 2 Bottom 5th Inning
Miami 0
NY Mets 3 Top 4th Inning
Atlanta 0
Boston 1 Bottom 3rd Inning
Baltimore 0
Milwaukee 0 Top 4th Inning
Pittsburgh 0
Chicago WSox 4 Bottom 3rd Inning
Tampa Bay 0
Cleveland 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Minnesota 0
Detroit 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Kansas City 0
Seattle 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Houston 0
Los Angeles 1 Top 1st Inning
Chicago Cubs 0
Texas - N. Tepesch 2:35 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Philadelphia - A. Burnett 3:05 PM
Oakland - S. Kazmir
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong 3:10 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Arizona - W. Miley 3:10 PM
Colorado - C. Bergman
Cincinnati - A. Simon 7:05 PM
St. Louis - L. Lynn
San Diego 13 3rd Qtr
Buffalo 3
Dallas 10 3rd Qtr
St. Louis 21
Washington 20 2nd Qtr 0:13
Philadelphia 14
Houston 0 3rd Qtr
NY Giants 14
Minnesota 6 3rd Qtr
New Orleans 13
Tennessee 0 3rd Qtr
Cincinnati 19
Baltimore 10 3rd Qtr
Cleveland 7
Green Bay 7 3rd Qtr
Detroit 12
Indianapolis 30 3rd Qtr
Jacksonville 0
Oakland 3 3rd Qtr
New England 10
San Francisco 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Columbus 2 2nd Prd
Carolina 1
Buffalo 4:00 PM
Washington
St. Louis 5:30 PM
Columbus
Calgary 7:00 PM
Edmonton
Edmonton 7:00 PM
Calgary
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(12) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(9) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 2:00 PM
Toronto FC
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 8
Montreal 15
Ottawa 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan

ADVERTISEMENT

Advertisement
Golden Gavel by Star Tribune

Countdown to great deals

Bid Sept. 21-29

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings do on Sunday in New Orleans?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close