Skepticism in Sochi


Stephanie Daniloff

     The opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia is not far away. According to CNN, beginning on February 7th an expected 213,000 spectators will attend, and 89 nations, with varying numbers of athletes, will compete in 22nd Winter Olympics.

        All publicity is good, or so they say. The Olympics, both winter and summer, are always events that bring attendees and viewers from all walks of life. As with any Olympics, there are always bound to be some scandals. Sochi is no exception. While the athletes are preparing and practicing, many already in the Olympic Park in Sochi, issues behind the scenes in relation to finance and the security of those present at the games are beginning to appear and worry many.

For a long time it seemed the biggest issue revolving around the anticipated games was the feasibility of the construction of the Olympic park in Sochi. Yes, Russia is no stranger to snow, but Sochi, being much father south and closer to the Black Sea has a much more sub tropical climate. This posed several problems because of the necessity for snow; lots of snow. Fortunately, the construction of the games seems to have been completed. However, the seven years of construction has certainly left its mark on the surrounding environment. Many worry about the quality of the construction, along with the effect on vegetation, air quality, and natural habitats of many local animals. In addition to questions of sustainability, CNN claims that $50 billion or more has been spent on the Sochi Games in comparison to the $40 billion of the Beijing Olympics. Critics of the games and of President Putin are questioning where this money went, and how well it was spent.

Another controversy that has come to light as the games approach is the stark contrast between the Olympic village and intended resort town of Sochi, and the surrounding towns such as Akhshtyr had been in direct contact with the on going construction.

The most recent, and probably most dire, issue of the games at Sochi revolves around the security of those present in the Olympic Park. Last week the world was made aware of the entrance of members of the Black Widow suicide bomber terrorist group into Sochi. According to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism these “Black Widows” are female suicide bombers, many who are widowers of men who were lost in the Chechen wars with Russia. According to CNN, the suspected bomber that may already be in the city is named Ruzanna “Salima” Ibragimova and police are currently on look out for her.  These bombers have been around since 2000 when a bomb went of in a Russian Military Base. Suicide bombings have also occurred late last year in the nearby town of Volgograd. According to CBS News, threats from a suspected Islamic militant group in the North Caucasus have also caused skepticism on the safety of the games. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is reassuring Russians and the world that the Olympic games will be safe, and that security in the area will create an “impenetrable Ring of Steel” (CNN). The Russian military is very aware of the presence of these bombers, and is currently searching for any suspects, especially in the Olympic Park. Russian President Putin has made sure to reiterate the safety of those at the Olympics, the presence of 40,000 security personnel, and respect for all members, including those of the LGBTQ affiliation.

The USA Opening Ceremony Attire designed by Ralph Lauren was released on January 24th and, in the wake of the news about the possible presence of terrorist suspects, US officials are recommending that American athletes refrain from wearing the attire outside of official venues.

        Many athletes and viewers have since second guessed their decisions to attend the games in the wake of these “scandals”, however attendance still seems to be high for the circumstances. Terrorism at highly attended events, especially the Olympics, is always a reality. Tickets will continue to be sold and the games are still on schedule as measures are being taken to deal with any security issues in and around the park.

        No Olympics goes without skepticism and scandal, and Sochi is no different. Despite any issues, Russia is showing significant efforts to make the games exciting and safe for all athletes, nations, and worldwide attendees.

The Sochi Winter Olympics will air on NBC starting on February 7th 2014.