Sochi Sounds Safe

Be it a terrorist attack or a venue collapse or some unknown, unforeseen act, these Olympics are going to go down in the way Munich did. The news every day out of Sochi gets worse and worse. Take for instance, a report today from ABCNews:

Russian security forces launched an aggressive “anti-terrorism sweep” today after coming across multiple unexplained deaths and explosive devices in a region near Sochi, where the Winter Olympic Games will be held in a matter of weeks, according to Russian news reports.

A car with a body inside exploded as police approached it in Russia's Stavropol Territory, reported Russia's state-owned RIA Novosti, citing the Interior Ministry. In the same area, Russian authorities reportedly discovered a car containing the bodies of three men along with explosive material. The day before, two more bodies were found in cars the same region.

Oh just, you know, mysterious deaths and tons of explosives. This, of course comes after the twin bombings in Volgograd that left 34 dead.  Russia, as you know, is no stranger to terrorist attacks. The country's Chechen republic has been fighting for its independence from Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. Chechnya, of course, is only 500 miles away from Sochi. While that may seem like some distance, the group has staged attacks all over Russia, travelling distances much greater than that many times. And Chechnya's leader has specifically stated he has the Olympics in his sights

Chechen militant leader Doku Umarov, known as Russia's Osama bin Laden, has vowed to “derail” the Winter Olympics in Sochi, which he called a “satanic dance on the bones of our ancestors.”


The risk is so high that some U.S. Olympic teams have evacuation plans in place.

A private crisis-response firm assisting the U.S. ski and snowboard teams for the Winter Olympic Games in Russia has up to five aircraft on standby in the event that medical or security emergencies require an evacuation from Sochi.

The extraordinary preparations a month before the games begin are in response to what Global Rescue CEO Dan Richards describes as the “unique challenge'' represented in part by Olympic venues located in the shadow of a terrorist battleground.

Russia, of course, says they have everything under control. Putin did not mince words when talking about his plans for Olympic security. 

With his country in the global spotlight, Russian president Vladimir Putin has promised to “annihilate” the terrorists. NBC employees argue that the Olympic Village actually will be the safest location in the country because Russia's security services have been busy establishing a “ring of steel” around Sochi. Drones, underwater sonar and high-speed patrol boats will monitor the area, and Russian security services will collect data and phone communications of anyone in the city. About 40,000 special forces will man checkpoints. 

Still, it takes only one. And while Russia is actively patrolling venues, its the venues themselves that may be a problem. They have been hotbeds for embezzlement and shoddy construction. From Business Insider:  

 The location that Olympic organizers had selected for the ski jump was a difficult one, with particularly challenging soil full of mudstone. Underground caverns made the earth potentially unstable, especially when saturated with water. “I saw better places in the world, easier places,” said Matthias Kohlbecker of Kohlbecker Architects and Engineers, who worked on early engineering plans for the venue. Nonetheless, Kohlbecker says he thought the ski jump project was entirely realistic. (His firm was involved only in the design stage and not in construction.)

Several people familiar with the project told me the team working under Bilalov didn’t carry out the necessary geologic tests before construction began. They instead tore down trees here and there to make a wide clearing and drilled into the fragile soil before stabilizing it. Without deep tree roots to hold the earth in place, the site was vulnerable to landslides. One day in the spring of 2012, millions of tons of dirt rushed down the hillside where the ski jump was being built.

That's just one example Business Week's reporter found. With venues throughout Sochi, and construction going at a relentless pace since the games were awarded, who knows what other issues and concerns were skirted in the name of aesthetics and speed. 

But we will find out in a month. The world will be watching, and who knows what we will see.