Chief operating officer of 2002 Winter Games expresses confidence in Sochi security after bombings

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 31 2013 6:24 p.m. MST

After two suicide bombings in two days that killed 34 people in Volgograd, Russia, some people are concerned about security at the Sochi Winter Games. Fraser Bullock, Salt Lake Olympic Committee COO, said he believes the venues will be secure.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — After two suicide bombings in two days that killed 34 people in Volgograd, Russia, some people are concerned about security at the Sochi Winter Games.

Fraser Bullock, Salt Lake Olympic Committee chief operating officer, said he believes the venues will be secure.

"Everything I've heard about the security at Sochi is that it is extraordinary," he said.

Bullock oversaw security for the 2002 games in Salt Lake City and said he's been in contact with Sochi's Olympic planners going over every aspect of the games, including security.

“You have to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” he said. “In planning for the worst, the way Olympic security works is they have a hard perimeter around Olympic venues — which means it’s fenced, it has magnetometers, it has security (and) it has cameras. It’s very, very hard for anybody to penetrate any of those hardened perimeters.”

The venues, many of the hotels and the Olympic Village will be the most secure places during the games, Bullock added.

A lot of times, terrorists and others go after what’s called a soft target, where there is no hard perimeter, like in Volgograd, he said.

“One of the ways to handle a soft perimeter is that you will have plainclothes security personnel mixed in with the public, looking for suspicious characters,” Bullock said. “In fact, they are putting a soft perimeter around the entire city (of Sochi), which is remarkable.”

The 2002 Winter Games came right after the attacks of 9/11, which brought extra concerns.

“In our games in particular, we were worried about aviation issues witnessed from 9/11,” Bullock said, “and so we had an air CAP, or combat air patrol, where we had security in the air 24/7 for the period of the Olympics.”

The Winter Games are also a big challenge because there are many outdoor venues, which are harder to secure than indoor venues, he said. With indoor venues, there is a fence around the perimeter and everyone is checked going in and out.

“Up in the mountains, it’s a difference situation. Like the men’s downhill at Snowbasin, we still had a perimeter,” Bullock said. “We had guards stationed all around Snowbasin that were there 24/7, and we had infrared and different cameras and all kinds of capabilities, even then.”

But one of the most important things in any security plan is intelligence, Bullock said, “trying to find out in advance before something happens to be able to interdict and stop the terrorist event before it happens.”

Hard perimeters, soft perimeters and intelligence all go together to try to prevent any terrorist attack, he said.

“There is always the unknown that is out there, and that is the hardest thing to deal with as somebody putting on security for the games,” Bullock said.

“I think for the Olympic venues, they will be safe, and the area around Sochi will be safe," he said. "The question is outside of Sochi, like Volgograd. Are there going to be soft targets that terrorists will go after?”

The games in Utah were recognized as the best operated games in history, Bullock said. Organizers developed templates for all functions of the games and shared them with other organizing committees. Security was one of the areas.

Olympic short-track speedskating hopeful Jessica Smith, who will try for a spot on Team USA later this week at the Kearns Oval, said she has confidence in the security plans for Sochi.

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