NBC ‘confident’ with Russian security measures for Sochi Olympics
NBC executives said Thursday that they feel comfortable with Russian security efforts for next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Fears of a potential terrorist attack have grown since late last month when a bomb blast in the Russian city of Volgograd, about 400 miles from Sochi, killed more than 30 people. There have been other incidents and threats of further violence as well.
NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel, during a conference call with reporters on Thursday to discuss NBC’s television coverage plans, said he was “confident” with the level of security being marshalled by the Russian government.
“We have never seen the type of security that we are seeing in Russia,” Zenkel said. “We are overwhelmed and comfortable with the amount of security that has been deployed.”
Russia reportedly plans to dispatch 40,000 police and military members to guard the Black Sea resort region that will become the picturesque backdrop of the Winter Olympics, which begin Feb. 7.
The U.S. military has confirmed plans to position ships and other military assets in the Black Sea in case an evacuation is needed.
NBC has 900 employees on the ground in Russia to prepare for its more than 1,500 hours of coverage on TV networks and digital platforms. An additional 1,400 NBC employees are scheduled to fly over in the next week or so, which will bring NBC’s staffing levels to roughly 2,300 people in Russia.
Zenkel said Russian authorities have installed a vast network of surveillance and are requiring credentials for event attendees. That means all spectactors for Olympics venues must submit to a background screening.
Russia also is preventing vehicles without local license plates from entering Sochi, and officers are routinely inspecting vehicles.
Because of the nine- to 12-hour time difference, NBC will begin its prime-time coverage on Feb. 6. Its coverage will run 18 days.
The Sochi Olympics are said to be the most expensive in Olympic history, with a price tag of $50 billion. NBCUniversal paid about $775 million for the U.S. television rights.
Security has been a paramount concern for more than a dozen Olympics contests. Athletes were killed in a terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics in 1972. A bomb blast disrupted the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. And the successful 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City occurred less than six months after the World Trade Center terrorist attacks in New York City.
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