Global Rescue, a firm from Boston, is at the Winter Olympic Games over the next few weeks providing medical and security protection for American Olympic skiers and snowboarders.
The company, which has partnered with the United States Ski and Snowboard Association in order to achieve their goal of protecting the athletes, provides evacuations for all medical, security or other critical needs to its clients, said Global Rescue spokeswoman Ann Shannon.
“We provide crisis response services and that includes medical and security in the event that they are necessary,” she said. “If someone is injured and needs evacuation, we are responsible for the logistics of that.”
Michael Corgan, professor of international relations at Boston University, said there have been threats in Sochi because the games are an attractive target for anyone wanting to make a political statement using terrorism.
“Anybody who’s got an axe to grind, this is the place to do it,” he said. “Any terrorist organization from some of these regions [of southern Russia] that want to be independent like Dagestan and Chechnya will want to make an appearance … there’s a phrase about terrorists: They don’t want a lot of people dead, they want a lot of people watching.”
Global Rescue served in the same capacity for the USSA during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. Although Global Rescue has worked with a variety of corporations and government agencies, including NASA, these Olympics provide a new challenge given recent terrorist threats, said Shannon.
Tom Kelly, vice president of communications for the USSA, said the firm works closely with the United States Olympic Committee and other agencies. Kelly said he is not allowed to publically discuss security issues, reflecting the heightened security concerns of the Sochi Olympics.
Shannon said Global Rescue would most likely have to act in medical emergencies, but would also assist the athletes in security situations.
“Medical emergencies predominate, [but we would also act] in the security situation,” she said. “There have been threats to Sochi. If there were a need to remove people from that situation, then we would do that as well.”
Fortunately for athletes from the United States and other countries, as well as spectators, it is unlikely that any attack will be successful.
“The security at the Olympics venue itself is very good,” said Corgan. “In fact, it’s so good that we’ve heard reports of smaller crowds than normal and lesser attendance at some of the events.”
However, U.S. authorities are not taking the situation lightly. Global Rescue has been planning for months for the Olympics and for any possible contingencies that could occur. Ultimately, the goal is to make sure that the competing athletes are the only things to watch.
Some residents said it is best to plan for the worst-case scenario, because no matter how safe people may feel, terrorist attacks are possible.
“They definitely need to make sure that everything is secure and that there are no loopholes,” said Jonathan Page, 25, of Brighton. “Just the fact that there are these terrorist threats on such a global event is unnerving … any threat is credible until it is discredited.”
Arnold Lamb, 52, of Roxbury, drew comparisons to the Boston Marathon bombings and said both authorities and individuals need to be on guard.
“The key to security in this time we live in is just to be vigilant of your surroundings, no matter what country you’re in, whether it’s Russia or the United States,” he said. “Look at the race here, the marathon … Russia has a different ideology, a different way of life, but worldwide, security is that everyone has to be vigilant.”
Aaron Freed, 23, of Roxbury, said the Olympics are probably incredibly safe due to who is hosting it this year.
“I know there have been terrorist attacks preceding [these Olympics], but both the Russians and the Americans would do a pretty good job at keeping the event secure,” he said. “Both are crazy superpowers that don’t take security lightly.”