By: Andrew Koch ~Campus News Editor~
As the Opening Day ceremonies near, the Russian government is faced with an increasing number of security threats and controversies, raising questions of Russia’s ability to keep athletes and spectators safe.
A video recently uploaded to a Jihadi website warned the international community of a planned attack at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
In the video, two men, believed to have been involved in two suicide bombing attacks last month in Volgograd, Russia, which killed more than 30 people, warn of further terrorist activity in the country.
“We’ve prepared a present for you and all tourists who’ll come over,” the two men said. “If you will hold the Olympics, you’ll get a present from us for the Muslim blood that’s been spilled.”
Russian authorities have also begun looking for Ruzanna “Salima” Ibragimova, who they believe to be involved in planning terrorist activity around Sochi.
Fliers being distributed by security officials in Sochi describe Ibragimova as the widow of a militant group from the Russian Caucasus region, where Islamist insurgents have been active in carrying out suicide attacks.
Terrorist activity has taken place at the Olympic Games before. A Palestinian terrorist group called Black September took hostage and later killed 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team during the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. In addition, Eric Rudolph, a lone-wolf domestic terrorist, detonated a bomb in Centennial Park during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, killing two people and injuring over 100 more.
Despite the threats, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his administration feel confident in their ability to keep spectators safe from potential terrorist activity.
The United States has positioned two warships in the Black Sea, and State officials said that there are contingency plans to evacuate Americans from the Olympic Games in the event of an attack.
In addition to security issues, members of the international community have also voiced concerns over Russia’s treatment of LGBT individuals.
The new legislation, passed in June 2013, bans “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations,” specifically in the presence of children. Under the new statue, it is illegal to hold gay pride parades or demonstrations or speak in favor of same-sex rights or relationships.
Though the Putin administration has defended the policy as a way of preventing child pornography and sexual abuse against children, organizations like the Human Rights Watch have voiced concern that same-sex individuals and rights activists, including LGBT athletes and individuals attending the Olympic Games are at risk for persecution.
Some politicians have also called for a boycott of the games following the Russian government’s decision to grant asylum to Edward Snowden, a former government contractor who leaked thousands of classified federal documents before fleeing the United States.
Russia, then known as the USSR, last hosted the Olympic Games in the summer of 1980. The United States and 65 other countries boycotted the event in response to the Soviet-led invasion of and subsequent war in Afghanistan in December, 1979.
The Opening Ceremony of the Games will take place on Feb. 7, and 98 sporting events will take place before the Closing Ceremonies on Feb. 23.