Securing the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi

Security experts want to use a technical system to monitor mobile telephone calls, emails, and online messenger services and chats, and drones and positioning systems that can stop attacks from the sea.


Athletes and guests at the 2014 Winter Olympics should be prepared for legions of security officials at the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

A state of alarm rules over the Russian city, and not only because militant Islamists have threatened to stop the Olympics with "all means that Allah allows."

More than 60,000 uniformed officials will be in position to defend the Games. And Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin, himself a former head of the state security organisation FSB, does not want leave anything to chance in regards to security.

Sochi will likely eclipse all previous Olympics as far as security is concerned, according to secret service expert Andrei Soldatov. Still, Putin's project of prestige is already the most expensive Winter Games of all time at around $50 billion.

Soldatov sees the recent suicide attacks in Volgograd as a possible diversionary tactic by terrorists. The Islamists were looking to prove once again that they can cause bloodshed outside the Northern Caucasus region.

"I am very fearful that they wanted to distract the security forces from the up-coming Olympic Games," said Soldatov, who believes that more attacks could be coming.

Russian leaders, however, continue to guarantee the Games will be safe.

FSB experts want to use the technical system SORM to not only monitor mobile telephone calls and emails but also messenger services and chats on the internet. In addition, 5,500 cameras will be in place to help with video surveillance.

Media reports say that security services are planning to use drones as well as positioning systems that can direct submarines and therefore stop attacks from the sea.

Commentators are referring to the locale as the "Sochi Fortress."

Sochi will also be an "Olympics of the Siloviki," according to the Russian newspaper Vedomosti recently.

Siloviki are the powerful representatives of the security structures in Russia. They use the cover of the anti-terror fight to continue to restrict the freedoms of Russian residents. Putin increased the powers of the secret service in a number of laws.

"Those in power want to cleanse the areas in and around Sochi of all malcontents who could damage the image of the host nation," Vedomosti said.

Environmental protectionists who are trying to block the destruction of unique nature are being confronted with criminal action. And human rights activists criticize increasing interferences in internet usage. Many websites are blocked today in the world’s largest nation.

Also punishable are appeals by separatists looking to sever individual parts of the huge empire which spans nine time zones from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific.

Chechen rebels have been fighting for years for a Caucasus emirate, an Islamic state independent of Moscow. The poverty and conflict-stricken North Caucasus is located not far from the Olympic venues.

Many experts shook their heads when Putin selected Sochi as the home for the Olympics – not only because it's one of the warmest cities in the winter in Russia but also because it is not exactly the safest of regions.

The Olympic instalments are near the border of the Georgian conflict region Abkhazia, which Russia recognises as an independent state. Georgia lost control over Abkhazia in a 2008 war with Russia.

The Abkhazians will be without their only connection to the outside world during the Olympics as the border will be closed during the Games.

FSB boss Alexander Bortnikov said border controls will be tightened altogether to stop the entry of terrorists into the country. He fears that Islamists want to use the world sports spectacle to get international attention.

One issue for the Caucasus ethnic group Circassians is that some of the Olympic facilities are built on the graves of their forefathers who were killed by Russians, and 11 activists of the Circassian National Movement were detained in December. They demanded the remembrance of those killed during the Caucasus War (1817-1864).

The organizers meanwhile want to shine throughout the world with the model region Sochi, which is supposed to be trend-setting for a new Russia.

"The city will definitely not look like a concentration camp," emphasized the leading FSB member Alexei Lavrichtchev.

Russia is looking to have "secure" Games and things being "comfortable" for the participants. And the Olympics shall be organized at a respectable level.

©2014 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany)