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Danger looms at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, but is Russia's security up to snuff?

By Grant Hatchimonji, CSO
January 27, 2014 10:51 AM ET

CSO - $51 billion.

That's how much has been spent on the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia so far, with the final tab projected to be even higher. Though various elements factor into this being the costliest Olympics ever -- to put things into perspective, China spent $40 billion on the 2008 Summer Olympics -- security is a big one.

"This is going to be an unprecedented event, where it's going to be held in very close proximity to a very active, unstable region of the world," said Bill Besse, vice president of consulting and investigations for Andrews International LLC, an affiliate of U. S. Security Associates.

Indeed, given the current political climate surrounding Russia, the threat level is arguably greater than usual and calls for some of the most stringent security the world has ever seen at any Olympic Games.

"I think there's an unprecedented level of security in Sochi using cutting edge technology," said Besse, who reiterated that the key would be to integrate the various forms of said technology. But he also added that any potential incidents may not occur in Sochi itself.

Like most Olympic venues, Sochi will be a very hard target to attack given how much it will be hardened by visible security. So instead, an incident or attack may occur somewhere else in the Russian federation from which the forces have been redeployed to beef up security in Sochi. "So if [attackers] can't get to Sochi, perhaps the plan will be for some kind of event somewhere else," said Besse.

Whether an attack takes place in Sochi or elsewhere in Russia, the country playing host to the Games would prove to be a perfect platform for extremist groups to make a statement.

"Broadcast television is going to be lifted to unprecedented levels in Sochi," he said. "Not only will there be broadcast quality TV, the Olympic Games are going to be covered with real-time streaming video. What does that translate into? It translates into wonderful Olympic games, but also an unbelievably attractive target for a terrorist or extremist move, or for a political or special interest group that wants to send a message to the world."

"It's a Russian show"

Though threats are clearly present, the burden won't fall entirely on Russia to defend itself, even if the hosting country appears to want to lead the initiative. Once Sochi was confirmed as the site for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, Russia implemented its "Safe City Initiative" as a holistic approach to not just create a safer city, but a better city.

"[The Safe City Initiative] is not just security," said Besse. "It's transportation, protection of infrastructure like power, energy, and telecom. It's protection of hotels and restaurants. And it's all to comprehensively provide a contemporary city with a safe environment where economic development can take place rather than be repressed by crime and terrorism and fear."

Besse speculated that there would be a high degree of communications between the Russians and different security teams that are visiting Russia, but reiterated that the Russians are taking the reins. "At one time, we had offered security intelligence to the Russians and it was pushed back on. It's a Russian show, and they're well equipped to secure it."

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