Spotlight on Sochi: Pageantry Over Politics – Feb. 8

The opening ceremonies of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia could be considered the height of the winter games hype — the peak of anticipation and speculation. After the ceremonies, we find out for certain who wins, whether fears of a terror attack were warranted and what the viewing public truly cares about.


BAE Systems has partnered with Homeland Security Today to produce a daily report that provides a unique perspective on the 2014 winter games in Sochi, Russia. Throughout the duration of the winter games (February 5-23), BAE Systems’ Advanced Analytics Lab will be studying social media data to convey trends in the public dialogue around security, infrastructure, transportation, cyber events and environmental concerns.

Unfortunately, most Americans had to wait a little longer than everyone else. While America anxiously awaited its high-definition, eight-hour delayedbroadcast of the opening ceremonies, much of the world — and anyone who needed the news in real time — turned to social media. We certainly did.

Conversation during the run up to the games was dominated by a raft of political and security discussions. With no athletic competition to cover, or medal podiums to photograph, the opening ceremonies were a ready-made soapbox for turning up the volume on these political grievances.

In the states and around the world, many hours were dedicated to debate over gay rights, animal cruelty, international terrorism, environmentalism, freedom of speech, personal privacy and other sensitive topics.

But is the furor over those issues strong enough to stand up to the pomp, circumstance and enchantment of the opening ceremonies?

Anecdotally, we thought it just might be, but knew we had to let the data tell the story.

Friday afternoon — hours before the primetime American broadcast — BAE Systems’ Advanced Analytics Lab monitored social media chatter during the opening ceremonies to discover if security and political issues would trend neck and neck with all the chatter about the ceremonies as they have over the past week.

The comparison could lend an ear to the true voice of what matters to the games’ international audience.
As it turns out, neither politics nor security were a match for the majesty of the show in the social media domain — at least for a few hours.

As fickle as social media can be, though, security concerns are never far from reach.

The chart below represents how rumors of a hijacked Turkish airliner reportedly en route to Sochi sparked mumblings in participatory media.

Friday’s data further underscored the fact that a medium as dynamic as social media can result in both fleeting and event-driven possibilities.

Concerns about security issues and, likewise, their social media chatter about them, change constantly as the environment around the winter games evolves.

Understanding how and why those changes occur will help us better understand both the mood on the ground in Sochi and emerging concerns from the worldwide audience.

For the duration of the games, the Advanced Analytics Lab is tracking dynamic social media activity related to common security issues by category and will report daily on how that discussion progresses.


Read the Feb. 7, Spotlight on Sochi: Distributed Denial of Sochi, Homeland Security Today-BAE Systems report.

Read the Feb. 6, Spotlight on Sochi: Sizing Up Security, Homeland Security Today-BAE Systems report.

Read the Feb. 5, Spotlight on Sochi: Ready or Not? Homeland Security Today-BAE Systems report.

BAE Systems’ Advanced Analytics Lab integrates analytic expertise, technology and tradecraft to make sense of big data and support critical customer missions. Much of the data analyzed in this series was processed and visualized using cutting-edge BAE Systems’ Applied Intelligence solutions, such as the Open Source Intelligence Product®. All geospatial images were produced using BAE Systems’ enterprise solution suite of Geospatial eXploitation Products®.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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