By Jason Miks, CNN
Never judge a book by its cover — and never judge a major sports event before it has begun. Just ask Delhi, India, which was rocked by some dismal headlines on safety and infrastructure ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games before recovering to win praise from the head of the quadrennial event.
Still, with just under two days to go before the opening ceremony, preparations for the Sochi Winter Olympics are looking far from complete.
From hotels that don’t appear to be finished, to ongoing security concerns, to reports of officials poisoning stray dogs — none of this will be what Russian President Vladimir Putin would have hoped to see when he arrived in Sochi on Tuesday.
So, what are the biggest concerns? Four issues have been grabbing headlines this week for reasons that have nothing to do with the upcoming sporting activities.
The most important duty of any host nation is surely to ensure the safety of athletes and visitors, but simmering tensions in the nearby North Caucasus region of the country — where Islamic separatists have conducted a string of deadly attacks — have meant that the threat of terrorism has loomed large over Sochi. Indeed, Doku Umarov, who has named himself emir of a self-proclaimed entity called the Caucasus Emirate, last year called on jihadists to do their “utmost to derail these satanic dances on the bones of our ancestors.”
Tens of thousands of police and troops have been dispatched to the area to create what Putin has described as a “ring of steel” protecting the games.
But questions were raised about the ability to protect soft targets when Russian officials released photographs of three “black widows” — young women whose husband purportedly were killed by Russian forces — who allegedly were planning to bomb the Olympic torch relay. There was particular concern about a fourth suspect, Ruzanna Ibragimova, who officials said might be in the Sochi area.
On Wednesday, Russian media announced that police in Dagestan had killed the alleged mastermind behind twin bomb attacks in the Russian city of Volgograd in December. The bombings killed 34 people and injured 100.
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