Aaron Schachter: It's almost crunch time for anybody preparing for the Winter Olympics next month in Sochi. That goes for athletes as well as security personnel. These Olympics are taking place in Russia's volatile Caucasus region, and last summer, an al-Qaeda-linked group there called on its supporters to disrupt the Olympics. Then, there were those two suicide bombings last month, in the southern Russian city of Volgograd. Last week, the Russian government started to impose a police lockdown on Sochi, to keep any trouble out of the Olympic venues. But some participants have back up plans; the US ski and snowboard teams have hired a Boston-based company, called Global Rescue, to be on hand to help in case of emergency.
Dan Richards is the CEO of Global Rescue and he's here with me in the studio. Tell me, Dan, what exactly have you been hired to do.
Dan Richards: So Global Rescue's had a relationship with the US Ski and Snowboard Association for about the last eight years. And what we provide are crisis management, response and contingency planning, in addition to the actual mechanism of evacuation, should an evacuation be required. I mean, typically we respond to really two types of emergencies. Medically-oriented emergencies and security-oriented emergencies, and sometimes both.
Schachter: So, can you be specific about some things you're thinking about now, that you didn't have to in tour in Italy?
Richards: Well, you don't have, in some of these other competitions, individuals who have committed themselves and their terrorist organizations to disrupting the event. In this instance, you have, you know, an individual named Dokka Umarov who's committed to disrupting the games and trying to potentially kill as many of the athletes and spectators as possible. And you just don't get that in Western Europe and in competitions in the United States and other places.
Schachter: Okay, Dan, with all due respect to Global Rescue and what you do. Considering what you've said, don't I want Z, the company formerly known as Blackwater, to have my back this time around? Some of these, you know, former commando guys. I mean, I've seen news stories of your office, a bunch of nice looking folks at computers in Boston.
Richards: Well, that's what we show people. And, you know, the security itself on the ground is gonna be handled by more than 40,000 Russian police and military. So the physical security is, I think, well in hand by the Russians on that side. You know, for us, we employ personnel who have deep experience dealing with very difficult medical and security issues. Many of these folks, particularly for this event, do have military special operations backgrounds. So we employ seals and rangers and former Special Forces personnel to perform these types of difficult missions. So if you are stuck in a place, like Sochi, that does happen to have an event that occurs, these are the kinds of guys that you'd want coming for you.
Schachter: Okay, Blackwater's got nothing on you.
Richards: Well, you know, Blackwater had a different mission, let's just say.
Schachter: Are your people already on the ground in Sochi?
Richards: They're not there presently, but they will be shortly.
Schachter: You guys allowed to bring in guns, I guess?
Richards: So we don't comment on typically the, you know, the tools of the trade that might get used, but in this particular instance with Russia, there are gonna be plenty of guns in the hands of folks who were on the same team with the Russians themselves. So there's no reason for us to do thay.
Schachter: Do the Russian authorities want you there? Do they welcome your presence, or are you just a nuisance for them?
Richards: I would say neither. You know, they're not necessarily thrilled that we're going to be there, but I don't think they view us as a nuisance, either. We're really enablers and we're not gonna get in the way. I think that when you're, you know, a country like Russia trying to secure these games, the more people that you have on the ground that are part of the population, that know how to deal with crises, that understand and can plan for how they might respond should a crisis occur, the better.
Schachter: Dan Richards' company, Global Rescue, is under contract with the US Olympic Ski and Snowboard teams in Sochi, Russia. Dan, wishing you and the ski and snowboard teams the best, and most boring, Olympics, in terms of security.
Richards: Thanks for having me.