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Sochi Olympics at Higher Terror Risk than any Sporting Event, per Terrorism Risk Experts

The upcoming XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, are at the highest risk for a terrorist attack of any sporting event that has taken place since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to Dr. Gordon Woo, terrorism expert at RMS, the world's leading catastrophe modeling firm. Based on 10 years of research of terrorist threats at previous summer and winter Olympic events, Dr. Woo says that public transportation is particularly at risk and that terrorists will likely act alone or in very small groups, making them hard to intercept.

The threat to next month’s XXII Olympic Winter Games is relatively high because of Sochi’s proximity to the Caucasus Emirate, a self-proclaimed, virtual-state entity in Russia whose leaders have already made threats against the event. Designated by both the Russian Federation and the U.S. as a terrorist organization, the Caucasus Emirate’s ‘black widow’ terrorists work alone and are therefore difficult to identify and monitor.

“Because of the history between the Russians and the Chechen people who splintered to form the Caucasus Emirate, Sochi is a prime target for terrorism,” said Dr. Woo. “President Vladimir Putin’s decision to hold the games in Sochi makes it a prime target because a strike against Sochi is seen as a strike against President Putin. It’s a huge target for Caucasus Emirate black widow terrorists.”

Dr. Woo contends that the focus of any attack would be on Russians and Russia, with a primary aim of disrupting the games. This could include attacks outside of the security cordon or even in regions just outside of Sochi. The cost of hosting the Sochi games is estimated to be approximately $50 billion, so there is a monetary incentive for disruption as well.

“Visitors should get to Sochi as early as possible,” said Dr. Woo. “The threat to transportation will be at its highest right before and right after the events, so if you arrive a few days early, you won’t be exposed to the highest-level threat.”

As an acknowledged, international expert on catastrophes, Dr. Woo has 30 years of experience in all branches of catastrophe science, covering both natural and man-made hazards. He is the author of two acclaimed books: “The Mathematics of Natural Catastrophes” (1999) and “Calculating Catastrophe” (2011). Dr. Woo is the chief architect of the RMS terrorism risk model and was recently named by Treasury & Risk magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in finance. He has also lectured on terrorism at the NATO Center of Excellence for the Defense against Terrorism and testified before the U.S. Congress on terrorism-risk modeling.

Dr. Gordon Woo is available for interviews by contacting [email protected].

About RMS

RMS is the world's leading provider of software, services, and expertise for the quantification and management of catastrophe risk. More than 400 leading insurers, reinsurers, trading companies, and other financial institutions rely on RMS solutions to quantify, manage, and transfer risk. Founded at Stanford University in 1988, RMS serves clients today from offices in the U.S., Bermuda, the U.K., Switzerland, India, China, and Japan. For more information, visit www.rms.com and follow us @RMS_News.

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