The Olympic flag depicts five interlocking rings, each in a color used in the flags of the participating nations.
There is a sixth ring in this year’s event – the Ring of Steel.
Host nation Russia claims to have implemented a lockdown security plan to protect the Sochi site from neighboring terrorists. The resources devoted to preventing mayhem from intruding on the world’s largest stage is probably the most concerted defensive effort in that part of the world since the Red Army saved Stalingrad (now Volgograd). A side note: the presence of the German Olympic team will probably represent the largest organized penetration by Germany of Mother Russia since the Wehrmacht’s advance in World War 2.
Sochi is just a few hundred miles to the south of Volgograd, a short distance by today’s standards. Volgograd was victimized by a terrorist attack this past December, one of several such acts committed by Chechen rebels throughout Western Russia.
An attempted attack somewhere within the proximity of the Games is almost a certainty. Even if the ring of steel remains intact, the psychological damage to all present will be significant if violence erupts anywhere within reach of transportation corridors.
The Russians appear confident they can head off any threat to the Games. In a country where judicial due process is arbitrary, we can expect draconian tactics – overt or covert – to round up suspects. The security forces will have latitude to arrest or detain anyone who looks the wrong way or tarries too long in one spot. When you have a leader like Vladimir Putin, who cut his teeth while serving the KGB, what would you expect?
Is there such a thing as the Olympic spirit in this type of environment?
It is reasonable to push the envelope of precaution when a threat exists. Even if there is no apparent threat, measures must be taken whenever people gather for a highly publicized event. Just look at the precautions for the Super Bowl – Blackhawk helicopters and fighter jets. If there were a blimp there would be a contingent of SEAL snipers on board.
But when you apply extreme security in a country with a long history of xenophobia, homophobia and an aversion to human rights, the result is likely to shock the senses of the civilized world, even if no terrorist acts are committed. It is conceivable that more gays than Chechen operatives will be apprehended!
Whether Russia will go too far in dealing with the very real threat of terrorism, the dangers facing visitors, athletes and the Russian citizens themselves has been a frequent subject of discussions. However, the irresponsibility of the International Olympic Committee has been noticeably absent from media talking points.
The IOC put politics before safety. In an attempt to be inclusive and appease a powerful leader, thousands are being put in harm’s way. It wasn’t as if they were unaware of the region’s volatility when they awarded the Games to the rather obscure resort in the Western Cauausus.
We can’t – we must not – stop life in the face of terrorist threats.
But we need to apply common sense, too, especially when much safer options are available.