Thursday, 6 February 2014

Threats and scares: should I go to Sochi?

In the past few weeks, media, governments and people around have been talking non stop about how Sochi will not be safe and that terrorist attacks will most likely happen there.
It seems that the only main arguments they can offer is the same: “It’s Russia”.

When I’m being asked if I’m scared I usually explain that all big international events get those threats, wherever they are located and whenever they take place. But in this case, it seems to be magnified by the location. What I find is that most people asking me that questions seem to have a very short memory span.

Let’s take a minute to rewind to 2012 and the London Olympic Games.
One year before, the MI5 was already talking about threatsand four months before, the same was still going on.
One month before the opening ceremony, two men were actually arrested for plotting against the Olympics.
And to top it off, the security hired (G4S) failed to send 10,000 people for security checks and the Army had to step in. 
And yet, amidst all of this, at no point people cancelled their trips or major world leaders implied that coming to London was not safe.

So, what happened? Nothing but amazing achievements, atmosphere and celebration of the British culture.

Actually, a bit of research shows that in the past 20 years, 2 (out of 16) Olympics suffered attacks during the Olympic fortnights, one of them being the country that has been firing shots at Russia and terrorism most regularly in the past month: Atlanta 1996 (USA). The other ones were 2 individual attacks during the Beijing 2008 Olympics.*
While the incident in Beijing have not remained in the general public memories, the concert bombing in Atlanta certainly has. And it has not stopped travellers from going to the USA.

So, is Sochi going to be a reckless Olympics where spectators, athletes, Olympic family and media are going to be at risk every time they venture out of their hotel rooms? No.
Is there’s going to be some organizational glitches along the way? Yes. All Olympics have.

Russia has everything to lose by letting security be an issue at those Olympics. Many journalists have twitted their accommodations issues and people are taking outrage. 
Is this bad? Yes, it is. Will they be laughing at it 6 months from now? I’m almost certain they will.
Will people be laughing at security threats or attacks? No. So it will be taken care of.

I have read online that people are cancelling their trips based on the media reports. To each its own, but if we follow this, are we going to stop crossing the road in fear of being hit by a car? Or stop eating fish in fear of fishbones?

Personally, I don’t feel more scared or more safe going into those Olympics than I am in my everyday life living in one of the biggest city in the world.
I am looking forward to go to Russia for the first time, and be in the middle of a great atmosphere like I was in Vancouver and London. It will be a blast!

I’m well aware that this comes off as a bit of a rant, but in the past week I have read and heard so many people who have no interests in sports, no interests in the Olympics or no interests in Russia trying to ‘make a statement’ just for the sake of it, that yes, it has p*ssed me off a little bit!

Rest reassured that the next entry will be lighter! Héhé!

* Terrorism and the Olympics, The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), July 2012

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