The countdown has begun with fifteen days and counting to the XXII Olympic Winter Games and XI Paralympic Winter Games. On February 7th to 23rd, 2014, the world will focus eyes front to events, athletes, games and medals at Sochi, Russia. Sochi is also primed to host the Russian Formula 1 Grand Prix from 2014 to 2020 pending completion of the circuit, as well as the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
According to a 2010 Census, Sochi has a permanent population count of about 343K. It is a city in Krasnodai Krai, Russia situated near the Black Sea coast between Georgia (Abkhazia) and Russia. Sochi is Russia’s largest resort city and touted as one of the few places in the country with subtropical climates of warm to hot summers and mild winters. For the immediate future, the Olympics are putting Sochi into the headlines.
Athletes of the Games use this opportunity to prove their mettle from years of practice and hours of hard work to bring out their best performance during qualifying rounds and competition. Winners will be glad to see their names and their performances repeated, and rightly so.
However, with weeks still to the start of the games, one competitor of a different kind is drawing the world’s focus to itself. Red Bull, having sponsored several athletes as well as Canada’s Mark McMorris – a medal favourite in the extreme sport of slope style, is currently the big winner at Sochi. Unfortunately, this early publicity is not without some challenges especially since seven people Red Bull previously sponsored have been killed in sports events hosted by the company.
Meanwhile, security is a number one issue at Sochi as competitors and participants continue to arrive each day. The question of safety is forefront as a number of European Olympic offices have received threats. European Olympic authorities who have faced terrorist threats and even attacks in the past have deemed the threats to be simply hoaxes or menaces that are part of big events such as the Olympics.
On the other hand, some U.S. Congress members are concerned that Russia must do more to protect athletes. Of particular concern is the history of Islamic insurgency and suicide bombers in the nearby vicinity of Sochi, and the fact that an Islamic warlord is currently urging his followers to focus their attacks at the Sochi Olympic Games.
As a result, the Hungarian Olympic Committee’s officials reported that they had received an email written in both Russian and English threatening harm to their athletes. Other Olympic committees of European countries such as Britain, Germany, Italy and Austria also reported receipt of similar threats. Fortunately, there is collective experience from the Austrian National Olympic Committee, the German National Olympic Association, the British Olympic Association and the Swiss Olympic Committee to discount said email as “fake”.
With that said, the U.S. State Department has advised Americans in Sochi to be vigilant about their security and to keep an eye out for potential terrorist threats, crimes and uncertain medical care. The FBI Director James Corney offered air and naval support to the Russian government should it be needed.
The International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach confirms that all credible threats are taken serious and that he is confident in the Russian Olympic organizers. Even though Russia has introduced sweeping security measures never seen at international sports events, intelligence services remains a crucial element to the Games.