Panel of Experts Draws on Military, Diplomatic, Academic, Legal and Research Experience to Explore Security Challenges at Olympics

SochiSecurity concerns at the Sochi Olympics are a just one facet of security issues globally, and the current events provide a valuable opportunity to discuss the challenges and potential for the way ahead.

The Potomac Institute co-sponsored an event at the International Law Institute Feb. 20 titled “Olympics Security Lessons: From Munich to Sochi” to look at the many security challenges, including cyber and physical, as well as the legal framework through which to view the challenges.

Kim Phan, ILI Executive Director, opened the discussion by reminding the audience that geopolitical issues and terrorism continue regardless of events like Olympics, and that venues attracting world attention are favored by terrorist groups.

Prof. Yonah Alexander focused on two Olympics – 1972 in Munich and 1980 in Moscow – as examples of political issues and terrorism impacting international sporting events.  He also cited the current events in Ukraine as a different kind of brutalization that deserves attention now.  Prof. Alexander is Director, Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies, and Senior Fellow, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

Drawing on military, State Department and FBI experience, Thomas Hastings focused on the importance of coordination and opportunities to support host country governments.   Close liaison is important, and early training and investments are important with such high-profile events.  Mr. Hastings is a former official at the Office of Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State and at the FBI’s Foreign and Domestic Emergency Support Team programs; he also coordinated USG support at the Sydney and Athens Olympic Games.

Dr. Ariel Cohen, Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy, at The Heritage Foundation, discussed the history of threats in Russia and the North Caucuses, and how that threat has evolved.   He observed that the threat is both homegrown and internationally connected.

Reviewing the large amounts of legal framework created by Russia to make the Olympics happen, Peter Roudik, Director, Global Legal Research Center at the Law Library of Congress, listed the many rules and regulations for spectators at the Olympics, and also the extensive amount of data and meta data collection going on in Sochi.

Prof. Ellen Zavian, Professor of Sports Law at George Washington University, reviewed safety, integrity, and security aspects of large sporting events, discussing the role of international organizations that focus on credentials and security at sporting events.

The final speaker, Prof. Bradley Shear, looked at the digital aspect of privacy and security, acknowledging that individuals have to give up some privacy to ensure security. 

Co-sponsors of the event included:
- Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies
- International Center for Terrorism Studies, at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies
- Inter-University Center for Legal Studies, at the International Law Institute
- Center for National Security Law, University of Virginia School of Law