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Securing the Sochi Olympics: Three Things to Know

Speaker: Raymond W. Kelly, Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
January 29, 2014

Despite ramped-up security efforts in anticipation of the 2014 Winter Olympics, concerns persist over terrorist threats facing the games. CFR Distinguished Visiting Fellow Raymond W. Kelly highlights three things to know about the threats and response preparedness in Sochi:

  • A Restive Region: "The area surrounding Sochi is one of the most volatile regions in not only Russia, but in the world," says Kelly. The Caucasus Emirate, which claimed responsibility for the recent suicide bombings in Volgograd, has declared that it will target the Olympics. Proximity to Dagestan and Chechnya, as well as the disputed territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, further fuels concerns over stability.
  • Challenging Scale: While any large-scale public event presents a high-stakes target for terrorism, the setup and scale of the Sochi Olympics presents increased security challenges. In particular, the thirty-mile distance between the two Olympic clusters will require security forces to cover a much larger area and also secure the high-speed rail that links the clusters, Kelly says.
  • Response Preparedness: Russia has taken extensive steps to secure the games, and participating countries, including the United States, are taking additional precautions. "While it is generally held that security at the Olympics is the job of the host country and the IOC [International Olympic Committee]," Kelly says, "should anything happen, the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, and a few other countries will be leading a coordinated response."

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