Olympic security plans intensify amid terror fears

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by CBS News

KMOV.com

Posted on January 10, 2014 at 9:15 AM

Updated Friday, Jan 10 at 9:15 AM

(CBS News) -- As U.S. athletes make their final preparations for the Winter Games in Sochi, an Olympic-sized effort to ensure security is also underway.

Russian military forces in the region are on combat alert. And American officials are also preparing for a “worst-case scenario.”

But unlike past Olympics, these games come with a new set of challenges. 

Dan Richards is the CEO of Global Rescue, a Boston-based firm contracted to provide emergency services for the U.S. ski and snowboard teams.

“This is not like Calgary, or Albertville, or Lake Placid,” he said. “There’s some bad actors within hundreds – not tens of thousands of miles of this location – that are bent on disrupting these games.” 

Geographically isolated, Sochi is also located near the unstable North Caucasus region, where Russian forces have been battling extremists in nearby Chechnya and Dagestan for over two decades. 

Last week, more than 30 people were killed by two suicide bombs targeting a train station and bus in Volgograd. And late Wednesday, explosives detonated when authorities found six bodies in the city of Stavropol, less than 200 miles from Sochi.

“In order to pull off something that would be massively disruptive to these games, Richards said, “it would require a level of sophistication by the attackers that we haven’t seen in decades and I’m not sure it exists out there but we do have to prepare for it.” 

Richards and his team have spent months expanding their traditional services to include large-scale evacuation plans should catastrophe occur. This includes having aircraft on standby at nearby airports, creating rallying points for evacuees, and making sure staff are equipped to navigate the region’s rough terrain.

For its part, Russia has stepped-up security throughout the region. A $2 billion operation called the “ring of steel” is being put into place. It includes the deployment of 40,000 police and military personnel in a fortified area around the Olympic site. They will be joined by over 400 Russian Cossacks, enlisted by President Putin to keep order.

Yesterday, the FBI released a statement saying it was satisfied with how Russian authorities were dealing with any threats to Olympic security. The bureau also said that during the games, agents would be stationed in both Moscow and Sochi to assist Russian authorities, as necessary.

To watch Jim Axelrod’s full report, click on the video player above.

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