Visitors to Sochi Winter Olympic Games Will Be Subject to Background Checks

By Michael Klazema on 12/31/2013

Thought background checks were only a part of American employment screening? Think again. United States sports fans with tickets to see events at the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia will not only be asked to present a valid ticket before being allowed to proceed into any athletic events, but will also be required to carry a so-called “Spectator Pass.” The Spectator Pass will serve essentially as one’s proof that he or she has been background checked and approved.

According to the international travel section of the United States Department of State website, the Spectator Pass is “part of the security regime for the Games.” By applying for a Spectator Pass, Olympic visitors to Sochi subject themselves to a background check, administered by Russian Federal Security Services.

The act of filling out the Spectator Pass application furnishes Federal Security Services with a visitor’s passport details, which are then used to look into the background of the Olympic guest and to confirm their identities upon arrival. In other words, the screening process will ensure that criminals and other dangerous individuals are weeded out of the Olympic audience early on, as well as protecting against imposters who attempt to use a fake identity to gain access to the world event.

It’s hardly surprising that Russian Federal Security Services are taking such strong measures to protect against potential threats at the upcoming Olympic Games. Already, Sochi has been beset by bombings and other terrorist activity that authorities believe to be related to the Olympics. On Sunday, December 29th, a suicide bombing in a southern Russia train station killed 17 people and wounded dozens more.

The following day, another bombing impacted a Volgograd bus during morning rush hour traffic. The attack took at least 14 more lives, and called into question the safety and security that currently exists in Russian regions. Many are afraid that the Sochi Olympics could become a target for terrorists or other extremist organizations, and the Spectator Pass visitor background check policy is a way that Federal Security Services can allay some of those fears.

Precisely what sort of background checks Russian authorities will use has not been revealed. It is likely that Federal Security Services will focus on violent criminal history or terrorist watch lists, both checks offered by United States-based vendors like Russian authorities will also likely look for traces of extremist behavior or beliefs, or any ties with potentially violent or otherwise threatening organizations.

Whether or not Spectator Pass background checks keep terrorists away from the Olympics will be revealed in six weeks when the games go live. However, background screenings certainly are not the only extent of the safeguards that Federal Security Services have put in place. On the contrary, the federal organization will also have troops patrolling the Sochi perimeter – soldiers in the mountains and forests, speedboats along the coast of the Black Sea, and drones in the air around the facilities. Once the games are less than a month away, perimeter security troops won’t even allow any cars to enter to the Sochi zone. In other words, if any threats are going to hit the Sochi Olympics, they are probably already inside the walls, so to speak.


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