The 22nd Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia commence Feb. 7, and while most American citizens will have their eyes glued to their television sets as they watch the opening ceremony, a contingent of Navy sailors on board two state-of-the-art warships have arrived just in time to watch the Games from a different vantage point. Military.com reported that the two warships, a command ship and a frigate, sailed into the Black Sea Feb. 5 to provide extra security assistance to Russian forces if necessary.
Security for seaside Sochi
When Sochi was chosen in 2007 as the site of the 2014 Winter Games by the International Olympic Committee, BostInno.com explains how Russian president Vladimir Putin touted the resort town on the edge of southern Eurasia's inland Black Sea as pefectly situated to captivate a large number of tourists and athletes alike. It's hard to imagine, however, that Putin expected two U.S. Navy warships to be among the visitors to Sochi.
The USS Mount Whitney and the USS Taylor completed their journey several days ago and have already commenced training exercises in the Black Sea. The Mount Whitney is a 620-foot command vessel with .50-caliber machine guns, helicopter-launching capabilities, and Close-In-Weapons-Systems, which Military.com reported are used as an proximity defense weapon. The Taylor is a 435-foot frigate suited for protection and escort missions, as well as anti-submarine objectives.
In addition to combat readiness, the ship can also supply an evacuation population of 3,000 people and generates 100,000 gallons of fresh water a day. Sailors on both ships have been trained for emergency preparedness for their deployment at the Olympics.
With only hours remaining before the Sochi Games officially begin, concerns over the comprehensive security expected at international events of its caliber continue to mount. The Los Angeles Times reported that the Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning to all airlines flying to Sochi to be wary of explosive materials smuggled inside toothpaste tubes or cosmetic containers.
"If we should receive information in the coming days and weeks that changes our assessment of whether people should travel to Sochi, we will make that information public," National Security Council spokeswoman Laura Magnuson said in a press release.
This latest warning over security at the Olympics joins several other indications of instability in the Caucasus region in Russia. In January, a suicide bomber attacked a train station in the city of Volgograd, only 500 miles away from Sochi, and NBC News recently reported that even powering up a laptop or a mobile device and connecting to the Internet while at the Olympics could automatically infect your system with viruses.
Making the journey
While only one of the ships traveled all the way across the Atlantic on its way to Sochi – the USS Mount Whitney was already stationed in Italy – some family members and fans of U.S. Olympians will be making the lengthy trip despite the security concerns.
Mark Caldwell told the Washington Post that he intends to be one of those Americans in attendance. His daughter, two-time Olympian Ashley Caldwell, will compete in Freestyle Skiing Aerials.
"I've stood at the top of the Deer Valley aerials hill and looked down on the 60-foot jump into space without any landing in site," the elder Caldwell the Washington Post. "My daughter [confronts] that fear daily, repeatedly. Of course we are concerned about the terror prospects in Sochi, but the Olympics are a once-in-a-lifetime event. And for us, twice now."
If Caldwell was at ease over the security in Sochi before, the presence of U.S. Navy soldiers in the Black Sea is sure to put his mind even more at rest.