(Eurasia Daily Monitor) The pre-planned introduction of an extra-tough security regime around Sochi last Tuesday (January 7) has brought an escalation of concerns about safety at the 22nd Winter Olympic Games, which will open in this sub-tropical resort on February 7. While Russian mainstream media sticks to the official line of strictly choreographed joy, more skeptical Western views find their way to the less controlled Internet media—and then bounce back to the West in increasingly alarmist reflections (http://newsru.com/russia/
08jan2014/sochi2014citadel. html). The sober warning issued by the US State Department and the announcement of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about sending some 30 agents to Moscow and Sochi were immediately picked up by Russian tabloids as proof positive of a high threat of terrorist attacks (Moskovsky Komsomolets, January 11). In fact, however, the athletes, journalists and the carefully screened fans will most probably be perfectly safe in Sochi. Nevertheless, the anxiously anticipated games can still be spoiled.
The heavy rain in Moscow last week served as a reminder that capricious weather might ruin the outdoor competitions in Sochi, which has never been associated with winter sports. Moreover, the massive deployment of security personnel of every imaginable kind—from air defense units to Cossack patrols—may inevitably result in dangerous cases of miscommunication, since any minor incident might trigger an entirely disproportionate response. Indeed, the psychological stress of a long-lasting high-security alert increases the possibility of false alarms, which could interrupt the heavily loaded schedule of ceremonies. Sochi has been so fortified by high fences, check-points and “no-go” zones that it resembles a besieged fortress, except that no standing army is actually besieging (http://echo.msk.ru/blog/
svetlana_sochi/1233912-echo/). Any attempt to stage a micro-protest, for instance in support of gay rights, is certain to be treated with extreme prejudice. The atmosphere may, therefore, be even more oppressive than it was at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, when Vladimir Putin was running his first errands as a KGB lieutenant (http://grani.ru/opinion/ abarinov/m.223213.html). […]
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