LONDON (CBSDC) — Strange toilets, unfinished facilities, gay rights and the threat of terrorism are all casting a shadow over the 2014 Winter Olympics on its opening day.

Scientists are warning of another threat — one that comes from the mountains themselves.

Sochi, the host city of the winter games, is located between the Black Sea and the Caucuses Mountains, home to some of the highest peaks in the world.

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They make a beautiful backdrop in Russia’s largest resort city, but the mountains carry danger in the form of avalanches.

Since the beginning of this century, some of the deadliest avalanches in history have happened in these mountains, LiveScience found.

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In 2002, a wall of rock and ice fell from the north face of the Caucuses, at the Kolka Glacier, killing 140 people, destroying homes and other buildings.

An avalanche in 2010 killed five mountain climbers.

The next year an avalanche buried 4 people near the village of Ansokh. They were found alive but injured.

Geologists have been studying the mountains since 2008, when Sochi was named as host city for the 2014 games.

The cold air from the west and the warm air from the Black Sea combine with heavy snowfall to create the perfect condition for avalanches, according to LiveScience.

Olympic officials do have some tricks up their sleeve.

Using explosives or special tubes that shoot pressurized oxygen, they can trigger smaller avalanches to keep the larger ones at bay.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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