Sochi Russia, site of the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympic Games, is finding itself under more and more scrutiny. Side by side toilets within the same stall is only the latest question being raised. With design concepts like that, one can only wonder what will come out once the event is over.
Anti gay legislation which made the headlines for the past few months, has prompted human rights groups to question the legitimacy of the games, with calls for protests and boycotts to emphasize their point.
Security, however, is much more of a worry and primary in the minds of all tourists and participants attending next month. Rumours of the infamous Black widow, Ruzan Ibragimova, being already in Sochi have fueled worries that began when a terrorist bomb went off in Sochi, followed just days later by another. In total, there are reportedly 30 people killed and injured a further 70, some very seriously. The Black Widow is said to be the widow of a Chechyn fighter and it is she who may have been the mastermind behind the terrorist attack on a high end shopping mall in South Africa last year which killed over 70 people. The term Black Widow, commonly used to portray widows of Chechyn fighters is particularly attached to one in particular at this time. Her photo is posted around Sochi however a master of terror is often a master of disguise.
Who are the Chechnya fighters and what do they want? The conflict has very early roots, going back to the 1700s. The present day conflict with Russia however, can be traced back to the 1990s, when, the Soviet Union disintegrated around 1991 and Chechnya became independent. The region known as Chechnya lays between Russia and the Middle East and is therefore a vital route for Russia. In 1999, Russia invaded Chechnya and brought it under control of Moscow. They had held independence for eight years and it is the fierce pride of those independent Chechnyas that has spawned these terrorist attacks including suicide bombings.
So how safe are the Olympic Games going to be? Comparisons to the Munich Games have been made. Some tourists have talked about not going. Security will be both visible and intense. The CBC reports that numerous Olympic committees in Europe have received threats in recent days. They have been shrugged off according to CBC reports through the Associated Press. President Obama had already declined to attend, sending instead a delegation to represent the USA. This may have been in protest around the anti-gay legislation, it may have been due to intelligence reports regarding the ongoing conflict with Chechnya, or it may be due to domestic issues such as the economy and healthcare. The Presidents of Germany and France will also not be attending nor will Prime Minister Harper of Canada.
The games begin on February 7th and will end on February 23rd. If all goes well, it will bring glory to Sochi, those countries winning gold and will bring all of the athletes home safely. Our televisions in North America will be broadcasting most events live, then repeated to accommodate time zones. There is a nine hour difference between Sochi Russia and Toronto Canada.
Is Sochi ready? We will know on February 24th for sure. Until then, let the games begin.