Friday 7 February 2014 the Sochi Winter Olympics start. An array of concerns trouble the sports event. One of the key issues is security, as the Caucasus Emirate group threatens to interfere the event using terrorist attacks. Despite enormous security efforts by Russian authorities concerns remain. The recent attack in Volgograd and worries about so-called ‘black widows” have resulted in massive worldwide media attention, which is one of the goals of terrorists. In that sense the terrorists have already won before the Games have started.
Major sports events prove to be big scale security challenges. Both the 1972 Olympics in Munich, where Black September members take Israeli athletes hostage, and, more recently, the bombing at the 2013 Boston marathon illustrate this. The – often global – media attention attracts terrorists. It proves hard to secure such big events.
The two brothers who conduct the Boston marathon bombing are of Chechen origin. It is also a Chechen group – the Caucasus Emirate group under the leadership of Doku Umarov – that announces attacks on the Sochi Winter Olympics. Especially the phenomenon of female suicide terrorists called ‘Black Widows’ have gained a lot of media attention. Umarov’s group is also held responsible for a series of bombings within Russia, starting in 2009. Most recently the group attacked a bus in Volgograd December 2013.
To prevent terrorist attacks, Russian authorities employ approximately 60,000 police and security personnel, supported by around 1,400 surveillance cameras on the ground, drones and jet fighters in the air, and even vessels and submarines off the coast. All at a cost that is estimated between two and three billion dollars. And still, a successful terrorist attack cannot be completely excluded. Moreover, given the mass media attention for the terrorists (and their cause) one could argue that the security game has already a winner even before the official start of the Olympic Games: the terrorists.