September 27, 2020

BY DEVON HAYES

As the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia draw near, questions concerning the security level at the venues become louder.

With the badly timed political decision to prohibit “gay propaganda” in Russia, civil rights protests have been getting violent. Although their stance is making international headlines, protesters will definitely take advantage of being front-and-centre during the Olympics.

Despite the world criticizing this outdated decision, Russians protesting their rights is not a main concern.

The biggest threats to the Winter Games are the militant groups that live in the shadows of Russia’s most troubled regions. The Islamic militant group Vilayat Dagestan detonated two bombs within two days in Volgograd, approximately 600 kilometres from Sochi. More than 30 people were killed in the December attacks.

Most recently, a video threat was released, featuring two men threatening the safety of the public.

“If you will hold the Olympics, you’ll get a present from us for the Muslim blood that’s been spilled,” the two men said.

These militant groups have been doing a great job instilling fear into civilians and travellers.

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, has attempted to shoot down international concerns about security with assurances that the government is not concerned due to a heavy military presence during the Games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has backed Putin, stating that the Games will run as usual. Is that supposed to make patrons and athletes feel better?

Approximately 37,000 security officers and military personnel will be present during the Games, and the security perimeter will travel 100 kilometres along the coast. Visitors should expect to see drones everywhere. Cars won’t even be allowed inside the secure zone. It will probably take hours just to get into venues.

If the government was not worried, extreme measures would not have to be taken to guarantee a problem-free event.

Heavy security doesn’t make people feel safe. It creates a feeling of constant threat. It makes people feel like they are being monitored, and if they make one wrong move or say one wrong thing, it will create havoc. It’s scary enough dealing with airport security.

What would be the point of even going? The Olympics are supposed to be fun, but it doesn’t sound like it will be.

As much as Putin has ensured the 2014 Olympics will be safe, athletes and spectators are going to be looking over their shoulders all the time. The IOC and the Russian government can say what they want, but the Olympic Games are going to look like a war zone.

And that’s not something I want to be apart of.

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