Sochi locks down for Winter Olympics

 Police officers walk in front of the main station at Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort in the western Caucasian mountains near Krasnaya Polyana some 50 km outside of the Black Sea city of Sochi,
Police officers walk in front of the main station at Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort in the western Caucasian mountains near Krasnaya Polyana some 50 km outside of the Black Sea city of Sochi,
Credit: Getty Images

Maximum security has been imposed around Sochi one month ahead of Russia’s Winter Olympics. As of January 7, an exclusion zone has been enforced around the Black Sea city, stretching 100 kilometers along the Black Sea coast and up to 40 kilometers inland. Within the zone, demonstrations are banned, military presence is high, and access is blocked for any non-authorized visitors.

Over 37,000 officers have been deployed to the area. They are on “combat alert” said Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov, following last month’s terror attacks on Volgograd that killed 34. The attackers are believed to have been separatists from the volatile North Caucasus region, who have explicitly threatened the Games.

Security has placed restriction on local people, hundreds of whom had staged protests at the weekend.

“Police stop all the cars and try to take our driving licenses to keep roads free…only special services can drive,” Sochi resident Gregory Adler, 25, told Metro. “I don’t feel more protected, it’s more like a show.”

“All of us are excited about the Games but we also want this nightmare to be finished,” said Ulyana Butikova, 20. “At every step you find policemen and metal detectors appearing at all the train stations and shops.”

Human rights groups are concerned that security measures will impact civil liberties.

“For weeks we have been receiving reports of activists and critics being threatened and intimidated in the name of security,” said Rachel Denber, Deputy Director of the Europe and Central Asia Division at Human Rights Watch.

While the authorities have softened a ban on protests by providing demonstrators designated zones, Denber believes the gesture is hollow. “You need a permit from security services and to request one would make you a target. They have done what the Chinese did by establishing a protest zone far from the city or anywhere people could access.”

Security experts believe terror fears will create a difficult atmosphere for visitors. “They are flooding the area with security personnel to try and lock down the area,” said Raymond Mey, senior program manager at the Soufan Group and former FBI agent with responsibility for security at the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics. “It’s not going to be the picture of sport and peace the International Olympic Committee want.”

But Mey believes an “enclosed security bubble” is the only way for authorities to address a genuine terror threat, with Sochi a high-profile target that is hosting its first event on this scale. Policing that threat will entail a zero-tolerance approach to dissent, he added.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

New statue of Penn State's Paterno set for…

By David DeKokHARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Fundraising for a new statue depicting Joe Paterno "as the man he was and not Joe the football coach"…

National

On newly released tape, 'Squeaky' Fromme says was…

Manson Family member Squeaky Fromme told a mental health examiner in newly released interview the "X" she carved in her forehead was meant to separate her from "the system."

Local

New York-based Century 21 store coming to The…

The former Strawbridge & Clothier building will once again host a department store. City officials on Thursday announced New York-based Century 21 Department Stores will…

National

Electric Zoo tickets on sale Tuesday as festival…

Electric Zoo tickets go on sale Tuesday. The festival announced plans to amp up security after two attendees died last year from apparent drug overdoses.

Music

Championship of Collegiate a Cappella: Students who are…

Tickets to this Saturday’s International Championship of Collegiate a Cappella reportedly sold out within 11 hours of going on sale.

Music

M.I.A. talks 'Matangi,' divinity, spontaneity and holograms

"There’s pressure for me to become a theatrical production like 'Glee,' or something" says M.I.A., "It’s like, 'the pressure’s on, bitches.'"

Movies

Tribeca: 'Goodbye to All That' star Paul Schneider…

Paul Schneider talks about his new film "Goodbye to All That," not acting too much and how he'd rather indulge in simple pleasures than play the scene.

The Word

Taylor Swift battles paparazzi daily at Tribeca penthouse

We're entranced by these photos of poor Taylor Swift leaving her Tribeca apartment.

NBA

Jason Collins named to Time's 100 Most Influential…

Jason Collins was named to the list after coming out as the first openly gay player to appear in an NBA game.

MLB

The return of Cole Hamels brings optimism

Cole Hamels’ quality start Wednesday was a nice change of pace from his recent season debuts.

MLB

Tony Gwynn Jr. a nice surprise for Phillies

Tony Gwynn Jr. has been a plus in every way for the Phillies.

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

Food

Hai Street Kitchen opening in Rittenhouse May 22

Japanese cuisine will get a Chipotle-style twist at Hai Street Kitchen & Co., a new casual, quick-food restaurant opening near Rittenhouse Square on May 22.…

Parenting

New study: Inside the wage gap between boys…

According to a new study, there's a wage gap between boys and girls, with boys earning more allowance for less chores.

Tech

From Apple TV to Fire TV, big changes…

Apple is set to launch a new generation of it's Apple TV, which grossed over $1 billion in 2013. But competition from Amazon and Google looms.

Style

Katy Perry releases a new Claire’s collection

Katy Perry expands her empire by releasing an accessories collection at Claire's.