Catastrophe expert Daniel Woo tells the International Business Times that a terrorist attack on the Sochi Olympics Games is likely – it is a matter of when, not if. The result of a CNN poll that asked 1010 Americans the likelihood of an attack echoes Woo’s sentiments, with 57% believing that the Games will indeed be sabotaged.
The feelings around the Sochi Olympic games are widespread fear and paranoia, instead of the usual joy and celebration. People’s focus has been shifted to terrorism over the Games and the athletes. According to the New York Times, global security experts consider the Sochi Games the most dangerous Olympic event ever.
On Feb. 5, the Department of Homeland Security in the U.S. put out an alert to all airlines arriving at Russia for the Games to be aware of bombs in toothpaste tubes. The department would not say what triggered the notice.
This warning follows the ban set by Russian officials last month on taking liquids onto planes destined for Sochi. The city is roughly 300 miles from the North Caucasus, which have seen an uprise in Islamic militant insurgency.
Since the fall there have already been three attacks in Volgograd, 400 miles from Sochi to the south, including one strike in December which left at least 34 people dead. The security staff for the Olympics is said to be 40,000 strong, but a majority of people still believe a terrorist attack is likely.
Doku Umarov, known as the Osama Bin Laden of Russia, has encouraged his followers to be vigilant and do whatever it takes to sabotage the Olympic Games. Umarov, a Chechen Islamic radical, is the commander of the Caucasus Emirate, a Chechen Islamist state in Russia opposed to Russian rule. They envision that an attack on the Olympics would be a direct attack on Putin, which is the group’s ultimate goal.
It is reported that authorities in Russia are looking for three terrorists known as black widows who are suspects in planned suicide bombings. One of them, Ruzanna Ibragimova, aged 22 and a widow of a militant is believed to be at large in Sochi.
Though it will be tough to achieve, Woo has warned visitors to avoid places that are crowded, saying that anything, including just dining outdoors, could be dangerous. United States athletes have been advised not to wear clothing that identifies them as Americans when leaving the Olympic Park as it would make them a definite target.
The decision to host the Olympics in Sochi was made in 2007. It is said that voters on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) were impressed by the pitch President Vladimir Putin delivered, which oozed charm as he spoke in both English and French. Sochi defeated PyeongChang, South Korea, which will host the 2018 Winter Olympics, and Salzburg, Austria. Both cities are gorgeous locations not overrun by terrorism, but Putin’s celebrity status was enough to make members of IOC overlook the larger picture of Russia’s violent conflict with the Chechens.
In this post 9/11 era, days have become grim, magnified by a large sporting event like the Winter Olympics and exacerbated by the situation in Sochi and surrounding Russian cities. Though many believe a terrorism attack is likely to happen, the Games will go on, running from Feb. 7 to Feb. 23.
By Kollin Lore