The other big story of the week was the start of the Winter Olympic Games in the Russian city of Sochi. Heaps of people are over there to cheer on the athletes. But some reckon crowds are down a bit this year because people are worried about security in Russia. Matt finds out why the country’s history has sometimes made it a target.
MATTHEW HOLBROOK, REPORTER: If you’re a winter sports fan, you’ve probably been counting down the days to the Olympics. You might have even been dreaming of packing your beanie and earmuffs, and heading off to Russia.
But a look at Australia’s travel website might make you think twice.
VOICE OVER: Exercise a high degree of caution. Do not travel. Terrorist activity. Criminal activity.
It seems like Russia’s not the safest place to be right now. So is it still OK to go? Well, it hasn’t stopped lots of other people from making the journey to Sochi to enjoy the games.
Australia’s athletes have arrived. And while they’re excited to compete, not all of them are completely relaxed.
SCOTTY: I kind of made the decision with my family that they weren’t going to come this time, cause obviously I didn’t want to be riding the whole time hoping that my family were gonna be safe.
Scotty’s nineteen, this is his second Olympics. But it’ll be his first without his parents watching on the sidelines. So is there really a danger? What’s there to be worried about?
Let’s take a look at Russia. Yep, it’s a big place. And the games are going on here in the city of Sochi. Just near Sochi, is a region called North Caucasus. It’s known for its spectacular mountains, and it’s seen as the border between Russia and Asia. But it’s also been the site of a lot of violence over the years.
Much of it has centred on this place called Chechnya. Chechnya has its own history, culture, and beliefs, and even its own language. Back in the nineties, there was a war between Russia and Chechnya over its independence. Tens of thousands of people were killed. Chechnya remained a part of Russia, but the violence never really stopped. Many were angry at the way the Chechen people were treated. In response, terrorists have attacked innocent people in Russia. In the past couple of months thirty four people died in two deadly attacks, and terrorists have threatened to target the games.
Some say the games should never have been held here, like Scotty’s parents.
SCOTTY’S DAD: Why would you put your Olympic Games in an area that’s had conflict for hundreds and hundreds of years?
But Russia says it’s spent so much on security that these will be the safest games ever. A huge amount of security has been put in around Sochi. President, Vladimir Putin has called it his “ring of steel”.
He’s got drones, missiles, and even patrol boats on the coast! Not to mention soldiers, police, and secret agents. All up, more than fifty thousand people whose job it is to protect Sochi.
The athletes are taking precautions, too. Australia’s Olympic team has even been banned from leaving the Olympic zone. Everyone’s being really careful and hoping these games will be remembered for all the right reasons.