Sochi as safe as New York? Senior Russian leader says so, but experts strongly disagree

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NEW YORK (PIX11) – Sochi, Russia, is as safe as New York, according to one of Russia’s most senior leaders, who also said that the city hosting the Olympics is as safe as two other U.S. cities that have been victims of terror attacks,. Boston and Washington, D.C.  Experts in protection from terrorism differ strongly from the Russian leader’s depiction, and warn of the potential of significant danger during the Olympic games.

This week, the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning to U.S. citizens traveling in the area that said that, among other things, terrorists may bring explosives to Sochi hidden in tubes of toothpaste.  That warning was issued mid-week.

On Thursday, Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak said, “The level of threat in Sochi is no less than in New York, Washington or Boston.”

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Don Aviv, chief operating officer of the security consulting company Interfor.  To begin with, he said, “the security threat for any Olympics is exponentially higher than any normal day.”

Aviv not only manages one of the world’s most sought after security services, he’s also very closely related to the biggest Olympics security story of all time.

His father, Juval Aviv, led the Israeli undercover team that took out the terrorists who had killed eleven Israeli athletes and one German police officer at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics.

“There’s no comparison for one reason,” said Aviv.  “The Super Bowl is American… and happens every year.  The Olympics happen every four years, the whole world watches.  You create a problem there, the world will watch.”

Consider these differences, as well.  New York City has 8.3 million people, compared to Sochi’s 330,000.  New York just finished hosting SuperBowl Week, along with Northern New Jersey, and for the series of events our area had on hand at any given time around 4,000 police officers and other security personnel. In Sochi, that number is 50,000 soldiers, police or other security officers, or one of every seven people in that city this month.

Also, during the Super Bowl, New York had zero specific security threats made against it by terror groups.  Sochi has had multiple threats made.

“We have one of the top, elite terrorist organizations… making threats, putting out videos,they’re telling them they’ll disrupt the games,” said Kevin Clark, principal partner of Elite Security, a security services firm in Manhattan.

Clark is a former deputy chief of the NYPD, and from that perspective and his current position, knows about anti-terrorism readiness in New York City.  Compared with Sochi, he said that there is cause for even greater concern in Russia,.

“[The terrorists’] plan is disruption… to do whatever damage they can do to what the games are supposed to represent,” Clark said.

As for Boston and Washington, both cities have had been the victims of terror attacks in the past, but neither has specific threats against them, as opposed to Sochi.

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