In Sochi, Olympic security increasingly uneven

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 17, 2014 at 12:14 pm •  Published: February 17, 2014
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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Hotel guests are walking, unchecked, past unused metal detectors. Security guards are no longer poking around at the pockets and ankles of every single person entering Olympic facilities. Tangerines and bottles of Coke are making it through security barriers that banned them two weeks ago.

For all the warnings that security in Sochi would be invasive and aggressive, it's appearing more and more uneven, and in places almost relaxed.

No attacks have been reported since the Olympics started Feb. 7, and the world's attention has turned to skiing and skating instead of security measures. Organizers insist security overall remains tight.

But risks remain. Just a few hundred kilometers (miles) away, Islamic militants stage regular attacks in a long-running insurgency. Russia has deployed tens of thousands of forces across the Sochi region and U.S. authorities sent two warships to the Black Sea.

Here are some things learned about security across the Olympic landscape from various spot checks conducted by — and the daily working experiences of — nearly two dozen Associated Press journalists as the first 10 days of the Sochi Games unfolded:

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SLIPPING PAST SECURITY

Ahead of the games, guards at security stations around Olympic Park and in the nearby mountains carefully checked every bag, car and body. Some visitors with food were forced to eat it before passing through the gates.

In recent days, however, visitors have made it through metal detectors with coins, keys, watches, belts and credit cards. The metal detector at one well-visited hotel on the Sochi shore doesn't appear to be used at all — and when a visitor offered to have her bag checked, she was waved past.

Some guards are still inspecting every item, down to the smallest lip balm or a Valentine's Day balloon, scanned for explosives. But others have let through backpacks containing a pocketknife, water bottles, fruit and shampoo.

At some checkpoints, officers stop buses to scan beneath them with special long mirrors for explosives. Those checks have become irregular.

Security measures seem more stringent in mountain venues, and on the route to get to there from the main Olympic Park near the Black Sea.

Along the 30-minute bus ride to the mountains, there are clusters of soldiers in various spots, and a sniper was spotted in the trees along the railway. On the smaller roads to the venues hosting skiing and snowboarding, there are small tent-like shelters housing soldiers overlooking the woods and hills leading up to the peaks.

Officials at the Sochi organizing committee, asked Monday afternoon about specific inconsistencies, said they are not responsible for security and referred questions to Russian authorities.

Sometimes security measures are designed to be inconsistent, so that potential evildoers can't figure out the system. But the attitude of the ubiquitous guards seems increasingly laid back — some are flipping through their phones or listening to music while manning their posts — instead of calculated to thwart enemies.



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