With the Winter Olympics less than two months away and scheduled to take place in Sochi, Russia, the recent terror attacks that have plagued the country cannot be ignored. High-profile athletes and celebrities from almost every country in the world will descend upon this Russian city located on the Black Sea and may create an ideal target for Doku Umarov, the Chechen Islamist militant.
Umarov has been called the “Russian Bin Laden” and has lived up to that moniker, as his group has been responsible for several deadly terror attacks in Russia over the past four years. More recently, his group is believed to be behind the two suicide bombings that occurred in Volgograd in the past two weeks. The first occurred Dec. 28, when a female suicide bomber walked into a train terminal and detonated an explosive that killed 17 and wounded another 50 people. The second instance occurred 24 hours later when another female suicide bomber detonated an explosive on a bus that killed 13 and wounded another 30 people. These two attacks rocked not only Russia; it shocked the entire world as it offered a reminder of just how prevalent terrorism remains throughout the entire world.
Each country is now left to wonder just how safe and secure their athletes and citizens who travel to Sochi for the Olympics will be. Umarov and his group have pledged to strike Sochi while the city occupies the world stage, while Russian President Vladimir Putin has ensured that there is no such possibility. After refusing the help of American Security Personnel to assist with the security plan and set up in Sochi, Putin has placed the responsibility for a safe and secure Olympics squarely on his shoulders.
Although this was a clear political power move by an arrogant and egotistical leader, it has no place for an event like this. Russia and the United States have never seen eye to eye on every issue, but the failure of Putin to put aside differences and risk the safety and security, not only of all who will travel to Sochi, but those who reside there as well, shows his complete disconnect from reality. As the Boston Marathon bombings showed, sporting events are prime targets for militants who wish to make statements that will be heard by the entire world, and Umarov’s threat of an attack at Sochi shows why.
Now with his reputation and decision-making under fire from world leaders for failing to take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety and security of Sochi, Putin has marched over 30,000 police officers and troops into the Sochi region and basically placed the entire region under martial law. Only specially marked cars are allowed in and out of the region, while air traffic and sea traffic will be severely limited. On top of this, people entering the city will have to pass through extremely tight security checkpoints.
In comparison, for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London there were 12,000 active security personnel used, and another 18,000 on standby. This large number of security forces being used by Putin and the protocols he has enacted are the only way he can fulfill his promise to prevent Umarov and his group from succeeding in striking the games.
The terror attacks that have occurred have shown that Russia is vulnerable; however, this is not the first time that a country has been rocked by terrorism shortly before hosting the Olympics. The terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, occurred only five months prior to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002. The United States was able to recover from that deadly attack and ensure safe and secure games.
Hopefully, Russia will be able to follow suit and the world will be able to enjoy the majesty and spectacle of the Winter Olympics knowing that athletes and spectators alike will be safe and sound.