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SBD Global/April 23, 2013/Olympics

Boston Marathon Bombing Raises Questions About Security At Sochi Olympics

The involvement of ethnic Chechens in the Boston Marathon bombing "has drawn security to the forefront of public concern in Russia, particularly with regards to the nation’s upcoming sports competitions," according to Kristen Blyth of the MOSCOW NEWS. Russia will play host to three major sporting events in the coming year: the Universiade -- an int'l multi-sport competition -- in Kazan in July, the World Championships in Athletics in Moscow in August, and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi in February. In the wake of a fresh terror attack, citizens, athletes and officials "are forced to reconsider whether Russian security is prepared." Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said, "For us this is a serious wake-up call. Of course we’ll tighten up our security measures." Due to Russia's "heavy financial and reputational investment plus the sheer scope of the Olympic Games," Sochi is "of particular concern." The special services of numerous foreign countries "have already visited Sochi in a series of test events and have thus far expressed satisfaction." Some experts said that the Sochi Games "may be the most vulnerable of Russia’s upcoming sports competitions for a number of reasons." The geographic location of Sochi -- just a few hundred kilometers away from the Northern Caucasus region, which includes Chechnya -- "places the Games very near to a politically turbulent area." Carnegie Moscow Center Caucasus expert Alexey Malashenko said that collaboration between regional extremist groups "could present a major danger to the safety of the Games." SK Strategia think tank analyst Maxim Agarkov said that Sochi’s small size "will also work to Russia’s advantage in providing protection." Agarkov said, "It’s simple enough to prepare safety measures, because there’s only one road [in Sochi]. In Moscow there are many entrances and exits. It would be much more complicated [to protect]." Agarkov added, "The biggest threat for the Olympics would be if the Islamic extremists found a common language with Circassian extreme nationalists" (MOSCOW NEWS, 4/22).
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Olympics, Russia

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