For all the talk about the intense level of security in Sochi, the scariest thing about Russian police I’ve encountered here is the perma-scowls etched on their faces. No urban camouflage or military assault rifles in sight.

Outside the Winter Theatre today, where Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the International Olympic Committee, we had cameras set up at an adjacent park, just a couple of hours before Putin’s arrival.

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Plenty of officers, but not a single one asked what was in the bulky black cases we were lugging around. They contained lights and other equipment, but nobody even asked the question.


Even when a lady – clearly troubled – started spitting and yelling jibberish at one officer, he remained calm. Practically amiable.

There are reportedly more than 50,000 police and military personnel guarding these games, but the visible ones are wearing standard police uniforms, with their guns hidden away in their holsters.

Sochi police

Where is that so-called “Ring of Steel” we’ve been hearing about for weeks? That show of Russian might is more of a whisper than a roar.

It’s no accident.

The Russians are walking a fine line between keeping the Olympics safe and keeping up a good front.

Within Sochi, you won’t see the heavily armed guards like the ones we saw in Moscow manhandling gay rights activists protesting Russia’s new anti-gay law.

You won’t see police in Sochi arresting people just for swearing, like they did this week to an environmentalist in Tuapse, Russia, who was a vocal critic of the Sochi Olympics.

Of course, this could all change when the Games get underway. But the last thing Moscow wants is to portray an image of heavy-handedness before a world-wide Olympic audience.

When guests are visiting your home, only one rule counts. Everyone on their best behaviour.

Watch CTV National News with Lisa LaFlamme tonight, broadcasting from Sochi.