SOCHI, Russia -- From a distance, Sochi is a city of serenity.
Its coast spans across 90 miles of the Black Sea and offers an unparalleled view of the Caucasus Mountains.
But as visitors journey closer, amidst the beauty, is a so-called “ring of steel,” complete with drones, armed guards and an underlying fear of terrorism.
“It’s the largest world stage. It’s where if you’re a terrorist organization, and you want to call attention to your cause, this is the No. 1 event to do that,” Former FBI Agent and Charlotte resident Chris Swecker said.
Swecker knows the challenges of securing the Olympics in Sochi. He led the FBI effort to protect the Salt Lake City Olympics five months after 9/11.
“Nonstop,” Swecker says of threats during those Olympic Games. “I mean the whole time we were there we were fielding just dozens of threats.”
A handful of athletes with Carolina connections are in Sochi, with one eye on the games, the other on the threat of terrorism.
They tell NBC Charlotte’s Dave Wagner they know it’s dangerous, but they don’t feel shaken. They’re heavily protected both in and out of the park.
"I wouldn’t send my family over there right now,” Swecker said. “My biggest concern would be the areas where western people are known to frequent.”