Sochi organisers are confident that they can provide a safe venue for the Winter Olympics
By Geraint Hughes. Last Updated: 06/02/13 11:36am
At London 2012, the British police forces and the military turned out to be among the stars of the Games.
Everyone felt safe. That sounds a simplistic, slightly flippant view of the security services' involvement at London 2012 but they did have an enormous job to perform.
Russia and Sochi 2014 face similar security concerns that affected London; the threat of terrorism.
However, that is perhaps where the similarity ends because Russia has a different approach. Sochi is a very intriguing geographic position. Right on the Black sea, as far south in Russia as one can travel with a subtropical climate, yet move 60km inland and you climb the Caucasus, a huge mountain range that spans Russia and its neighbouring territories of Georgia, Chechnya and Dagestan, to name just three.
And there lies the inherent problem of security in this area of Russia. Chechnya was only recently a bloody backdrop to a bitter conflict - Georgia has had historical arguments with the Moscow authorities, while Dagestan according to Alexkei Malashenko of the Carnegie Centre, a much respected voice on security issues within Russia, is an area where terror groups are currently residing. Russian terrority has over the past decade been subjected to internal terrorist attacks, the bomb blast at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport in 2011 one of the most recent.
Malashenko believes Sochi 2014 is "vulnerable" to a terrorist attack, "more so than London." The area is not protected by sea, but by mountains. Russia is a huge landmass, the largest country on the planet despite its relatively small population of approaching 150 million people. The organisers of Sochi 2014 work in conjunction with President Vladimir Putin, the Winter Games are not of just regional significance, but of massive importance to Russia and its world standing so security is taken very seriously. Even a year out, around both Clusters where the Olympics will take place, police patrol 24 hours a day in great numbers. It's not overbearing yet, but the Russian military will be "visible and invisible" during the Games. Also the Russian authorities will know the identity of every foreign national that is at the Olympics, either as an athlete, coach, media or just a supporter or tourist.
Unlike the UEFA Champions League final in Moscow in 2008 between two English clubs, Manchester United and Chelsea, where visa requirements were waived as long as you were in possession of a ticket, for Sochi 2014 that will not be the case. You will require a Russian visa and a ticket and further accreditation if deemed necessary to enter Russia.
Dmitry Chernashenko, CEO of Sochi 2014 is adamant the Games will be safe. Not only did he point out that the country possesses the infrastructure to provide policing and military personal during the Games, but he also pointed out that Russia knows how to deal with terrorists. It was quite a chilling point he was making, but a point that backs up theories that Russian Special Forces are right now infiltrating suspect groups and taking measures. Residents of Sochi have another theory; the huge construction involved in organising Sochi 2014 has brought jobs to the region. 75,000 builders are employed, and the majority have come from outside Sochi seeking work.
Russia won't take any risks. Military and police won't blend into the background at the Games; they'll be highly visible in huge numbers. As will members of the security services that none of us will see.