Safety in Sochi


Concerns about security are growing as the Feb. 7 opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, draws near. The United States is right to offer its help.

The proximity of Sochi to Russia’s troubled regions and restive, Islamic-majority republics should have been taken into account when the International Olympic Committee decided in 2007 to locate the games there. Any concern among IOC members at the time over security at Sochi was probably overcome by a desire to give Russia its turn and to avoid the suggestion that the country was incapable of keeping participants and spectators safe from attack.

The pertinent question now is how to assure security at Sochi for the games. There may linger in some circles a desire to see Russia’s heavy-handed president, Vladimir Putin, taught a lesson through problems at the event. But that is unfair to everyone else concerned, especially the athletes who have trained for years to represent their countries.

The United States has an important stake in seeing that the games come off smoothly. The State Department has issued a warning to Americans who plan to attend. The Navy intends to station two ships in the Black Sea off Sochi to assure surveillance and to be able to evacuate Americans if necessary.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian general staff, met this week to discuss coordination of the two nations’ efforts, particularly electronic measures, to prevent attacks at the games.

That’s appropriate. A successful Olympics will benefit the whole world. Disruption of them would be to the advantage of only an unreasonable, violent few.