News / Europe

Russia Seeks Olympic Comeback With Sochi Games

Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) and Olympic Village Mayor Elena Isinbaeva (R) visit the Coastal Cluster Olympic Village ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Athletes Village in Sochi, Feb. 5, 2014.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) and Olympic Village Mayor Elena Isinbaeva (R) visit the Coastal Cluster Olympic Village ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Athletes Village in Sochi, Feb. 5, 2014.
When Russia last staged an Olympic Games, much of the world's finest were no shows.

With Sochi, Russia is banking on staging an elaborate turnabout.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has invested heavily in the Winter Olympic Games, which begin Friday in the Russian Black Sea resort.

“Keep in mind the last Olympics in Russia were the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. And these were held a year after Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan. And as a consequence of that, more than 60 nations boycotted the Moscow Olympics,” said Brian Jenkins, an analyst with the RAND Corporation.

“It was a debacle for the Soviet Union, for the Russians. Sochi is their comeback,” he said.

The president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, told reporters there that “the Olympic stage is ready for the best winter athletes of the world.”  

Russian authorities have spent more than $50 billion on the Winter Olympics making them the most expensive games in history. As a comparison, the 2012 Summer Olympics in London cost $15 billion.

Thomas de Waal, who has written extensively on the North Caucasus, agrees that  Putin has staked his personal prestige on the peaceful outcome of these games.

“He is a man who, as we know, has made his whole brand about this, this is a man who has put Russia back on the map. He has made Russia strong again, respected again, a place of prestige,” said de Waal. “He is also a man who loves physical sports and the outdoors. And so he has definitely put an enormous amount into these games and pumped unprecedented amounts of money into these games as well.”

De Waal said if the Sochi games go well and without incident, no one will be more relieved than Putin. But if things go wrong, he is the one who will be blamed.

  • Russian speed skaters train at the Adler Arena Skating Center ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Feb. 5, 2014.
  • Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov practice their routine at the figure stating practice rink ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 5, 2014.
  • A woman poses with the Olympic rings in Olympic Park as preparations continue for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 5, 2014.
  • Hidenari Kanayama of Japan completes a training run in the men's luge singles ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 4, 2014.
  • Canadian short track speed skaters and brothers Charles and Francois Hamelin watch a replay of their training on an iPad at the Iceberg Skating Palace, Feb. 4, 2014.
  • A Russian security forces K-9 officer patrols with his dog near the finish area of the Alpine ski course ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 4, 2014.
  • Rosa village is seen from a gondola prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 4, 2014.
  • Olympic workers ski through a tunnel on the way to the Alpine ski course ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 4, 2014.
  • A competitor takes a jump past a giant matryoshka doll during a Snowboard Slopestyle training session at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 4, 2014.
  • U.S. snowboarder Ryan Stassel takes air off a jump during slopestyle snowboard training at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 4, 2014.
  • Speed skaters from the Netherlands train at the Adler Arena Skating Center ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Feb. 4, 2014.
  • Players from the Swedish women's national ice hockey team take part in a training session at the Shayba Arena in preparation for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 4, 2014.
  • An Olympic worker overlooks the Caucasus Mountains from the Alpine ski course ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 4, 2014.

Security measures tight

 A lot of money has been spent on unprecedented security arrangements to prevent terrorist attacks, according to Brian Jenkins, an expert on security and terrorism with the RAND Corporation.

“There are anywhere between 70,000 and 100,000 policemen and military troops deployed around the city. In addition, we hear reports that Russian authorities are going door to door in Sochi looking for suspects - they have some particular individuals they are looking for,” Jenkins explained.

“Vehicles from outside Sochi have been banned in the city. There is a surveillance effort that has been established which will provide the Russian authorities with instant access,” he added, “real time access to all communications taking place in Sochi and, reportedly, even the ability to intervene and alter messages themselves.”

North Caucasus threat

The main threat comes from separatist and jihadi groups in the North Caucasus, especially from Chechnya and Dagestan, located some 500 kilometers from Sochi. Several groups have vowed to disrupt the Winter Olympics.

One such group claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings in late December that killed more than 30 people in Volgograd, the largest city closest to Sochi - some 600 kilometers away.

Bruce Hoffman, an expert on terrorism with Georgetown University, said Sochi has been transformed into a closed city.

“This is probably, without any doubt, the most threatened Olympics since the 1972 Munich Olympics where, of course, the tragedy of the terrorist attack on the Israeli athletes really resulted in the profound changes we see to the Olympics, but also to other huge sporting events in terms of their security.”

Sochi - the only target?

Hoffman said the tight security measures make Sochi a difficult target for terrorists, butu that they don’t need to strike at the games to either disrupt or overshadow the Olympics.

“They may understand that they can’t get close to the games or even the athletes themselves, or even the spectators," Hoffman noted. "But they can and I believe their intention is to make life difficult for the Russians and to create some sort of an incident that takes away from the enjoyment and the sporting spectacular that is the Winter Olympic."

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid