Olympic Sized Security For Sochi
February 6, 2014

Mix Of Brute Force And High Tech For Security At This Year’s Olympics

Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

As the curtain is about to rise for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi final touches are still coming together, but the question of security remains. Last week the State Department issued a travel alert to those heading to Russia, and this week news has circulated that specific threats may exist that included possible toothpaste tube bombs.

The United States Navy has even been tasked to the Black Sea to be ready to help evacuate US athletes and spectators should it come to that. The question has been asked whether that is even going too far.

“It’s normal for countries to outline contingency plans for the removal of their nationals from any country in which there’s a risk to them,” Matthew Clements, editor of IHS Jane’s intelligence review, told CNN. “At the same time, this is usually only undertaken in very serious situations such as cases of civil war or other kinds of conflict.

“In the event of a terrorist attack on someone in Sochi, even if it was around the city or venues, I don’t think the idea of there being a U.S. military evacuation of their citizens from there would be a realistic prospect,” he added.

However, the Russians have promised a so-called “Ring of Steel,” which could include as many as 70,000 security personnel – far exceeding the number of athletes who are heading to the seaside resort town of Sochi.

Exactly what high-tech security the Russians might have in place hasn’t been announced for obvious reasons, but attendees of the Olympic Games will likely encounter vast amounts of security apparatus, even if they don’t know it. This will likely include biometric technology that is being used to help keep the athletes and visitors safe.

“In order to enter the Olympic Park visits must have a ticket but also an Olympic Pass, which is like an ID tag,” Dr. Anil K. Jain, professor of the computer science department at Michigan State University, told redOrbit. “In order to get the pass you need to pass a background check.

“In addition there are surveillance cameras that are linked to face recognition technology, so officials will be looking for particular individuals,” Jain added. “There are issues that make face recognition difficult, but as we saw in Boston one of the bombers was matched in frame to photos in social media.”

That is part of the key with the biometric security that is in place; it requires that someone is in a database, and most of the time this is merely law enforcement. Comparisons should thus go a bit further.

“For it to be really successful it needs to be expanded to social media as well,” said Jain. “However, there is likely also activity recognition in place as well that looks for people that are acting suspicious such as leaving behind a package.”

Moreover, while security remains a concern and warnings have been issued to athletes to use caution, the Russian organizers have stepped up measures. It was reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin called out nearly 1,000 Cossacks to help patrol Sochi as part of the 70,000 strong security force.

“What we are seeing is a mix of brunt force with high tech at this year’s Olympics,” added Jain.