Sochi’s Dogs Crossed the Road to the West

February 10, 2014
A stray dog walks past the Olympic Rings in Olympic Park this week in Sochi, Russia. / AP

Pravda, the official paper of the Communist Party, says that the coverage of Sochi has been unfair to Russia, as Western journalists mirror the biases of their countries against the Russian state, the Russian people, and the Russian leader. – Ed.

Perhaps never before in history news about the upcoming Olympics had less to do with sports and athletes than with something else. This is not surprising, given that the majority of Western journalists accredited at the Olympic Games are focused on issues more logistical in nature: counting stray dogs, inspecting lawns, hotels and other facilities. There is no time left for the Olympics.

“Global security experts called the Sochi Olympics the most dangerous games in history in terms of venue, severity of the threats, and the ability of terrorist groups to carry out their plans (because several terrorist attacks in the region have already been committed ),” wrote The New York Times, without bothering too much with specific names and data.

It was a very, very risky decision for the Olympic Committee to hold the Olympics in Sochi, said Andrew Kuchins, the Director and Senior Fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He said that many people, including the athletes’ families and friends, were too scared to attend the Games. Of the total number of respondents interviewed by CNN (the survey was conducted last Sunday) 57 percent said that a terrorist attack at the Olympics in Sochi “is very likely.”

All this hysteria somehow obscured the fact that there is nothing new about the terrorist threat at the Olympics. The threat of terrorism looms over every Olympics. Remember how the members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and killed in Munich in 1972. Serious terrorist threats to the United States in connection with the Olympics has not been eliminated since September 11, 2001.

By the way, at the XXVI Summer Olympics in Atlanta terrorists exploded a bomb in the Olympic Park, killing 2 people and injuring 111. The explosive device was installed in a metal pipe packed with nails and screws. The terrorist wasn’t found until two years later.

“Olympic Sochi – the safest place in the world”


American officials insist that they had specific reasons for concern about the safety at the Games in Russia. “There are a number of specific threats of varying degrees of credibility that we are tracking,” said Matthew Olsen, Director of the National Anti-Terrorist Center, speaking at a White House Intelligence Committee hearing. “And we’re working very closely with Russians and other partners to monitor for any visible threats and to prevent them.” But are there grounds for such a serious concern? For example, at the 2012  Summer Olympics in London – the city, where the subway had been previously targeted by terrorists — unprecedented security measures were taken in the subway, with posters warning residents to get out of the city if possible. However, the media didn’t try to contribute to the tension.

“I’m pretty sure that an attack on Olympic facilities during the Games is practically impossible, considering the unprecedented security measures. But given the vast territory of our country, such a threat hypothetically exists in other areas, territories, regions. Also because suicide bombings in public places are very hard to prevent,” says Alexey Filatov, a retired FSB colonel, a veteran of the “Alpha” anti-terrorist group, who fought in Chechnya and participated in a special operation to free hostages in Budennovsk. According to him, the Olympics is an event that is especially attractive for terrorists, because their goal is not to kill as many people as they can, but to get as much publicity as they can. That’s why those who are working against Russia, trying to discredit it, will, of course, try to use this opportunity. On the other hand, the concerns are not groundless, as “in recent years the Russian Federation has been in a state of war against terrorism,” said the expert.

The CNN poll involving more than 1,000 Americans also showed that 54 percent rate President Vladimir Putin unfavorably, and it “makes him one of the least popular foreign leaders among Americans,” writes the resource. Also, according to the same source, 55 percent of respondents have a negative view of Russia, which is a downward trend compared to 2011 (three years ago, more than half of them thought of Russia positively). CNN explains this fall in rating fall by the adoption of the “anti-gay law” in Russia.

“I don’t think this can be explained by that law alone,” says Andrey Kortunov, CEO of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs. “In the West, especially the U.S., there are strong stereotypes about the Russian political system, lifestyle and values. These stereotypes are actively replicated by the American media and Hollywood. But this law, as well as the events related to the so-called ‘Magnitsky Act’ and the ‘Dima Yakovlev Law,’ the issues related to the activities of NGOs, presented in a certain way by the American media, all this led to the lower rating.”

For comparison, it has to be said that according to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation in August 2013, only 13 percent of Russians had a negative view of Barack Obama. According to the study by Romir & Leger Market Research holding, that number as of last December stood at 18 percent. Hardly surprising, considering that Americans still associate Russia with the Soviet past. Communism (14 percent), the Cold War (11 percent), Soviet Union (5 percent), KGB (2 percent), socialism (2 percent), nuclear weapons (2 percent) – that’s what comes to an American mind when they speak about Russia, according to studies.

As to Russians, in their minds the following are associated with America: the dollar (12 percent), various symbols of freedom (12 percent), and Obama (8 percent). Russians have not forgotten about Hollywood, about chewing gum and soda, Big Macs, pizza, iPhones and jeans.

Little wonder, if the negative attitude towards the Russian leader is automatically transferred to the assessment of the Sochi Olympics. For example, this is how Robin Scott-Elliot, a special correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent describes the situation in the pre‑Olympic Sochi: “frightened” door handles coming off in the apartment buildings, absence of electric bulbs and water in faucets, plus water “that contains something very dangerous.” “A lot of stray dogs, hastily planted trees, secured with ropes to keep them upright.” But I would like to remind Mr. Robin Scott-Elliot that in London the local media wrote articles under headlines like “Nothing is ready!”, “Shame on our Kingdom!”, and the empty bleachers and the scale of ticket speculation were mind boggling.

Nevertheless, a few days before the Olympics the attitudes were suddenly reversed: praises to London authorities poured uncontrollably. The thing is that the go-ahead was given, that in the case with Russia should hardly be expected.