Yes, today the Sochi Olympics ended in a huge success for Russia and President Putin. And no, I don't mean the medal count (even though it was a total triumph for Russian athletes: 33 medals, including 13 gold, 11 silver and 9 bronze). I mean the fact that no terrorist attack succeed in disrupting these games and that even though the list of sophisticated and determined forces wanting an attack to spoil these games was probably longer than in any other Olympic games (just remember the Saudi threats!). Over the past couple of week I have tried to be cautiously hopeful, but I was still very *very* concerned as the sheer size of this event (88 nations, a record, 40'000 people at the opening ceremony with 3'000 participants, 98 events over 15 disciplines in 7 sports, and 2'800 athletes and 2 million visitors made these the largest Winter Olympics to date): a total security nightmare, especially in southern Russia, right between the Caucasus and the Ukraine. And yet, nothing, nothing at all happened. Two "rioting pussies" got whipped by a Cossack security patrol, while the German athletes sported a "rainbow" uniform. Oh, and the western media in a pathetic display of sour grapes did all it could to denigrate and ridicule the event. No biggie here.
What really matters is that this success shows something which we could only speculated about before, but which now can be considered a proven fact: the Russian security services are back at the top level of their capabilities. The kind of long-term, sustained, multi-agency effort needed to secure an event of this magnitude is a formidable test for any country, especially one with such a long list of extremely dangerous foes. Following 20+ years of total, absolute, and sustained systemic collapse and following 14 years of immense efforts to turn the situation around, the Kremlin is clearly again in full control of Russia and its borders. Though this will only make Putin even more hated in the West, I personally am allowing myself a long awaited sigh of relief. At a time when the Ukraine has plunged into a hellish nightmare which now threatens entire European continent (I will write about that tomorrow), I am personally immensely relieved to know that the Kremlin does have the means to protect the Russian people from the darkness which has now engulfed the Ukraine.
There is never a good time to face a demon of the power and viciousness of the one which has been set free in the Ukraine, but at least Russia is as prepared as can be to deal with this new threat.
PS: thank you all for your good wishes. I have had a fantastic week-end spent with good friends, good food and good rest, and - barring any unforeseen events - I will return to the nightmare in the Ukraine tomorrow.