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Sochi’s Soft Underbelly

December 31st, 2013 - 7:01 am

The main terror threat to the Winter Games might not actually be at the Winter Games:

Russia is promising extraordinary measures to ensure the safety of athletes and spectators at the Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. But as two deadly bombings in southern Russia have made clear, protecting people as they travel to the games could pose a much tougher challenge.

Suicide bombers on Dec. 29 and Dec. 30 killed more than 30 people at a train station and on a trolley in the southern Russian city of Volgograd. “The attack demonstrates the militants’ capability to strike at soft targets such as transport infrastructure,” says Matthew Clements, a security expert at IHS (IHS) in London. Although Russian authorities may be able to protect Sochi itself, “there is a greater risk to transport targets around cities in southern Russia, and even Moscow itself.”

Sochi is on the lovely Black Sea coast, but other than that it’s in the middle of pretty much nowhere. Stavropol is nearly half a day away by train, Sebastopol and Volgograd even farther. And being in the Caucasus, many of the locals aren’t exactly known for their strict lawfulness. You’d really want to fly in, but it’s not like Sochi hosts a major international airport capable of handling thousands of athletes, thousands more coaches and support staff, plus jillions of media and attendees.

Wikipedia says about $3 billion has been spent on upgrading the region’s tourist and transport infrastructure, but it’s a safe guess that a big chunk of that wound up greasing palms rather than paving roads.

This is going to be a real nail-biter getting everybody in and out of there without getting blown up.

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All Comments   (4)
All Comments   (4)
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Holy smokes. That's a small airport. Two runways (but they cross, so it's really just one runway that can change slightly with the wind), and the longest one isn't even 9500ft. Oh, and it's a one-way-in, one-way-out setup, so landing and departing traffic get to play a game of chicken.

Sounds like a nightmare.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hmmm, a restive region, near to a long insurrection that's been a breeding ground of terrorists of an un-namable ideology, and that's a less than dead international tourism spot.

So why, exactly, did the Olympic Committee pick Sochi? Why did Russia even nominate that region? Moscow Winter Olympics makes sense, heck, even Volgograd Winter Olympics sounds down right reasonable (though I'd suspect the entire German team might catch a nasty cold that might be the flu and better to stay home) but the southern Caucuses, not so much.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
It wouldn't surprise me if some group does attempt something unsavory. I expect the Russian response to be... non-subtle, and I suspect that is at least something of a deterrent.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wouldn't surprise me if they turn down our 'offer' of 'help'. I suspect if there are incidents resulting in deaths a scorched earth response would be the least of the inhabitants of that region's worries.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
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