So you’re going to the Winter Olympics in Sochi as either a spectator or as an athlete. Congratulations. But this is no ordinary Winter Olympics. Enjoying your time there will take a bit of preparation.
So what can you expect? Needless to say, security will be tight. Getting backstage at a Lady Gaga concert will seem like a walk in a mall. Plus, you’ll be going through metal detectors so often that you’ll feel like an employee of Homeland Security. The key is to make this process as painless as possible.
So, let’s start with your wardrobe. Ideally, you’ll wear a cotton jump suit and sneakers equipped with velcro ties. In other words, dress like you’re about to become an inmate at a minimum security prison.
Next, you don’t want to give the slightest hint that you might be gay, that you might have gay friends, that you might know someone who is gay. Tall order. Where do you begin?
Start with your smartphone. Let’s look at your music. Best of Village People? Delete. Lady Gaga? Delete. Elton John is OK. But just to be on the safe side, load up on some Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits and Johnny Cash. Beatles are always cool.
Pictures of your young nephews and nieces on the phone? Delete ‘em.
Finally, to save you time, I checked the websites of various governments around the world to see what they had to say.
The United Kingdom Foreign Office advises, “Travellers at the Sochi Games should expect increased police presence and enhanced security measures in and around both the Olympic venues and the wider Sochi area. You should maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times and in all places.”
The U.S. State Department on their travel advisory website says, “In July 2013, Doku Umarov, the head of the Caucasus Emirate (an organization the United States designated as a terrorist organization in 2010, and known in Russian as the Imirat Kavkaz or IK) released a video message rescinding prior directions not to attack civilians and calling for attacks on the Winter Olympics in Sochi.”
The Canadian government is a bit more specific. “Whenever possible, limit your use of public transportation that is not affiliated with the Games. If you must use public buses or trains, be particularly vigilant and remain aware of your surroundings at all times.”
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs says, “Russian authorities have placed special restrictions on various items, including prescription medications, at Olympic venues.” I’m not sure why they are banning meds. I would imagine a little valium would be real handy at these games.
Finally, the highly regarded International Crisis Group says, “To forestall attacks on the Games themselves, which will be held a few hundred kilometres from Europe’s most active armed conflict, the government has transformed Sochi into a tightly-sealed high-security zone. Tens of thousands of troops, police and special forces have been deployed, along with drones, advanced cyber surveillance and a special security regime.”
So, if you go, be careful. Keep your wits about you. Remember that walking is good. As for me, I’ll be watching it on television.