En garde for Olympics

Metal detectors and X-ray machines (made in the United States), khaki-clad soldiers armed with Kalashnikov AK-47 automatic rifles, electronic trip-beams guarding no man's land outside tall wire fences, tens of thousands of police patrolling in pairs beneath huge posters of smiling "Misha" bears.

All are part of an unprecedented security screen clamped down around Olympic sites and hotels on the eve of the 1980 games.

Veteran Western residents say they have never seen anything like it in peacetime in Moscow or other Soviet cities.

It reflects several facets of the Soviet character: determination to avoid any Munich-style terrorism or incidents as Moscow becomes the first community city ever to host an Olympics Games; traditional suspicion of outsiders; KGB certainty that the CIA and other Western agencies are using the tourist influx to conceal spies; and a vigorous effort to break as much contact as possible between ordinary Soviet citizens and tourists at the gleaming, ultramodern Olympic Village, which is light-years ahead of the comfort enjoyed by the average citizen here.

Police pay particular attention to reading matter and notebooks of correspondents and tourists.Already some items have been confiscated.

Here's the airport-type procedure I have to go through to enter the huge Olympic press center building, which has just been opened:

Outside one of the three main entrances, two policemen studiously compare my face with the picture on my accreditation card.

Inside a curtained entryway, I put my briefcase on a moving belt and see it disappear into the depths of an X-ray machine made by a company in Cambridge, Mass. I take out my keys and pens and other metal objects and put them in a plastic tray.

I step through the archway of the metal detector (called "Friskem" and made by a Delaware firm), wait for the all-clear, pick up my briefcase, and step into the interior courtyard.

Police patrol in pairs both around the courtyard and in the corridors of the press center itself, which is vast and well equipped. Correspondents who were in Munich in 1972 and Montreal in 1976 say no such security surrounded press centers there.

When I visited the Olympic Village with the Newsweek correspondent here, we first saw a Soviet infantryman armed with a Kalashnikov stationed every 100 yards or so along the head-high wire fence enclosing the entire area.

Behind the soldiers were wooden barriers, and between the barriers and the fence sets of electronic-beam relay points enclosed in small towers made of green plastic. Presumably the beams are activated at night.

Inside a small wooden hut, we surrendered our precious accreditation cards. In return we received special passes for the village only and walked through a narrow corridor of wire fences, watched by a dozen soldiers and officers, to the cultural center.

From there we were permitted through another checkpoint into the shopping and cafeteria area. With its gleaming stores, repair shops, displays of brightly colored sports equipment, and giant cafeteria, it is a piece of the Western world set down in green fields in a Moscow suburb.

A young blond plainclothes man began following us, a walkie-talkie set under his coat. Every step we took was watched by dozens of soldiers with communications gear in hand, police, and plainclothes agents.

When visiting correspondents check into their hotels, they go through metal detectors and X-ray machines, and then their bags are searched again, with particular attention to reading material.

At the press center, one British journalist had his notebook leafed through. A communist correspondent had his notebook taken away, colleagues report.

Tens of thousands of militiamen (police) have been brought into Moscow from outlying areas. Auxiliary police with red armbands, mainly young people, patrol Moscow's gleaming, modern subway system. For each day they patrol, an extra day is added to their annual vacations from their regular jobs -- a bonus apparently causing many to volunteer with alacrity.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.




Save for later


Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items


Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items


Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items