Thus far, the upcoming XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi are on track to be the most expensive Olympics in history. According to official estimates, the projected cost of $12 billion has already been exceeded and is approaching $50 billion, and the final tab could be as much as $66.7 billion. Despite Russia’s hefty investment in infrastructure and security, experts are concerned about a host of threats that could face sponsors, athletes, and attendees.
The Games are important to Russia for reasons that go beyond sporting competitions, as the country wants to showcase its modern face, and explicitly its ability to secure its territory, which is so closely located to the turbulent region of the Northern Caucasus. However, recent bombings in Volgograd and southern Russia’s Stavropol territory, which borders the province where the Olympics will be held – coupled with newly-released videos containing terrorist threats from known insurgents and reports of suspects on the loose in Sochi – have only heightened concerns of potential risks to the Games.
The threats include:
- Continued acts of terrorism, including bombings and hostage incidents, with the potential for the emergence of lone-wolf terrorists and Islamic militant sympathizers and copycats;
- Political unrest and insurgencies, especially given porous borders between Russia and politically-turbulent neighboring regions;
- Criminal elements targeting tourists during major events;
- Foreign and domestic activists waging public demonstrations in support of human rights and a variety of social issues; and
- Heightened risk of DDoS attacks and other attacks by hacktivists who sympathize with the Islamist militants, with a primary concentration on sponsors and soft targets.
Large-scale public events such as the Olympics present an attractive target for terrorists, who have already threatened Russian citizens as well as Westerners who are viewed as complicit in the Russian government’s efforts to control the North Caucasus region. Although President Vladimir V. Putin asserted this weekend that he would “do whatever it takes” to protect visitors arriving for the Games, anyone attending, sponsoring, or participating is urged to stay alert.
Cyveillance intelligence experts have authored an in-depth assessment of the Games’ security posture that explores the level of local preparedness, potential physical and cyber threats from terrorist and insurgent groups, possible disruptions from national and international activists, and other security issues looming over Sochi-2014. If your company has a vested interest in the Games or their greater geopolitical repercussions, you can download a copy of the report here.