Security concerns after Russia bomb
SHORT track speed skater Pierre Boda is in the box seat to become the fourth Australian athlete chosen for February's Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The 20-year-old won race one of the three-race showdown against training partner and roommate Andy Jung yesterday, and only needs to win one of this morning's other two to book his ticket to the Russian port city.
The contest started in Melbourne just hours after a suicide bomber killed 16 people in the southern Russian city of Volgograd, a stark reminder of the threat to the safety of competitors, officials and fans at the Sochi Games.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has acknowledged the security threat, at the same time vowing to make the Games the "safest Olympics in history".
Concerns were heightened in June this year when the leader of Russia's Islamic movement, Doku Umarov, released a video urging his followers to use "maximum force" to disrupt the Olympics which are being held just 250km from the republics of Chechnya and Dagestan where most of Russia's rebels are based.
In the video, Umarov said: "They plan to hold the Olympics on the bones of our ancestors, on the bones of many, many dead Muslims buried on our land by the Black Sea. We as mujahideen are required not to allow that, using any methods that Allah allows us."
In the wake of the suicide bombing, Chef de Mission of the 2014 Australian Olympic Team, Ian Chesterman, said he had confidence Russia would ensure the security of the Games.
"We remain confident in the security arrangements being put in place for Sochi. We know at every Olympic Games, security is of the highest concern," Chesterman said.
"We have been given assurances from the highest levels of the Russian government that the security will be very tight in Russia and Sochi. They are fully committed to providing a safe and secure environment for our athletes in Sochi and we remain confident that they will do so."
The bombing prompted Russia's Interior Ministry to order police to increase patrols at railway stations and other transport facilities across Russia.
A security zone has been created around Sochi, stretching approximately 100km along the Black Sea coast and up to 40 km inland. Russian forces will patrol the mountains around the resort town, drones will keep a constant watch over Olympic facilities and speed boats will patrol the coastline.
The security plan includes a ban on cars from outside the zone from a month before the games begin on February 7 until a month after they end on February 23.