Threats of Terror All Too Real in Sochi

By Christopher Belluschi ’14

Amateur Snowboarders in Sochi, Russia (Photo: Andy Isaacson for The New York Times)

Amateur Snowboarders in Sochi, Russia (Photo: Andy Isaacson for The New York Times)

As the opening ceremony for the Sochi Winter Olympics nears, mounting terrorist activity has many wondering whether or not it is safe for the world’s top athletes to attend.

Some athletes, such as American speed skater Tucker Fredricks, have asked their families to not attend the games. Fredricks stated that he wants to maintain focus on his performance, rather than being concerned for the safety of his loved ones, according to the Janesville Gazette. Fredricks’s father, Dan, said to NBC that “Tucker said he doesn’t want to worry about us or about security.”

Security concerns are so serious that the U.S. State Department recently issued a travel alert for U.S. citizens traveling to Russia during the Olympic and Paralympic games from Feb. 7 to March 16. The alert will expire after the Games, on March 24.

Russian authorities have reported numerous suspicious deaths recently, as well as multiple car, transit, and suicide bombings in cities near Sochi.

The attacks began after Russia vowed to make the games the safest ever. Officials believe many of them are caused by Islamist militants from Russia’s northern Caucasus region, where the country has been battling insurgency for years.

The U.S. Department of State alert notes that the Olympics are “the first large-scale event to be held in Sochi and medical capacity and infrastructure in the region are untested for handling the volume of visitors expected for the Olympics.” It urges Americans to stay vigilant and be wary of their surroundings.

Travelers should expect a heightened police presence, and should avoid demonstrations. There will be many services available specifically for American citizens in Sochi, including a temporary embassy office in town.

To ease the worries of foreign travelers, Russian President Vladimir Putin created a “ring of steel,” a 1,500 square-mile barrier around Sochi. With all of the added safety measures travelers who are inside the confines of Sochi should be safe, but getting to the area could include some risks.