It was there, about a two-hour drive from downtown Anniston, that an American upset over the government’s stance on abortion planted pipe bombs in the park during the ’96 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, killing two and injured several others. Eric Robert Rudolph, who also bombed abortion clinics in Atlanta and Birmingham, wasn’t caught until 2003. He’s now serving a life sentence in a federal penitentiary.
The world now has renewed concerns that the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Russia, may bear resemblance to the terrorism-marred Atlanta games -- or to the 1972 Games in Munich, or to this year’s Boston Marathon. Despite officials’ comments Monday about the Feb. 7-23 games, those concerns are real.
To understand the heightened fears, geography and history are key. Volgograd is the largest city close to Sochi, which is hosting Russia’s first winter games. (They’re 400 miles apart.) Sochi, meanwhile, is near Russia’s Northern Caucasus, a region beset with violent Islamist insurgency due in part to Russia’s two wars against Chechen separatists. The International Olympic Committee’s awarding of the 2014 Games to a city so close to areas long suffering from such violence deserves questioning.
Though the Volgograd bombings have not been directly linked to the Games, the leader of a Chechen terror group released a video this summer in which he urged his followers to “use maximum force” to halt the Sochi festivities.
On Monday, IOC President Thomas Bach said that “terrorism is a global disease” and wrote in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the IOC remains confident in the Russians’ ability to safely host the Games.
Rene Fasel, head of the umbrella group of winter Olympic sports bodies, told the Associated Press, “It will be very difficult for everybody. People will complain about security. I’m sure the Russians will do everything possible, but that means we will have an unbelievable [tight] security control.” … But “we have to be strong. We decided to go to Sochi and the only answer to these bombings and terrorist incidents is to go there.’’
Giving in to terrorists is never the right call. The Games should go on. But Russia’s problem is profound, and it’s now the world’s problem, as well.