On December 29, two separate suicide bombings shook the Russian town of Volgograd, killing 31 people and leaving many more gravely injured. Not surprisingly, the brash Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to "annihilate" those responsible for the attacks, believed to be Chechen extremists. But with the 2014 Winter Olympic Games set to take over the town of Sochi beginning February 7, is Putin's typically macho posturing enough? It doesn't have to be, because Olympic officials have been in this situation before, and unprecedented security measures will be in place before the first starter's pistol fires.
An Air of Unease Persists
Even before they've begun, Russia's Winter Olympics have produced no shortage of consternation. Critics of Putin and his regime have cited his presidency's anti-gay rights legislation, his heavy-handed persecution of dissenting voices in his own country (especially artists and journalists), and his close international relations with nations such as Syria and Iran as symbolic reasons not to let Russia host the games. The threat of more attacks only serves to further exacerbate that uneasiness. While that uneasiness is certainly understandable, it may be slightly unearned. The last time there was a terrorist attack during the Olympic Games was all the way back in 1996, during the summer games in Atlanta. Before the heinous acts of American domestic terrorist Eric Rudolph during those games, an Olympic bombing seemed practically unthinkable. Now, that possibility has been the linchpin of every security measure of every Olympics ever since.
It Isn't Just Russia Providing Security
Although only Russian security forces can be officially permitted in the Games village or at event sites, as British journalist Alan Hubbard pointed out in The Independent, that certainly won't stop individual nations from employing private security and armed plainclothes police as part of their respective delegations. According to the Russian newspaper Pravda, both English Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama have offered their countries' assistance to Putin in organizing security at the games. At least when it comes to the safety of all involved at the Winter Olympics, Putin has plenty of friends to count on.
As Prepared As Possible
So if you're concerned about the possibility of terrorist activities at this year's Winter Olympics, just take into account the level of security that will be present. After all, the last time that a terrorist strike happened at the Olympic Games was nearly twenty years ago, and the bombing at the Boston Marathon last April has reminded all concerned to be extra-vigilant in their duties at these Games. If we've learned anything since 1996, it's that we can never take safety for granted. But that's a lesson that Olympic officials and world leaders surely won't be forgetting anytime soon.