Some families of U.S. Olympic athletes are opting to watch their loved ones compete on television instead of in Sochi due to terror threats.
The Star Tribune reported that Zack Parise, who plays left wing for the USA hockey team, told his parents not to travel to Russia for the Games.
“I know they say they have evacuation stuff for us and all, but you just never know. I guess you have to wonder at what point does someone say it isn’t a good idea for us to go,” Parise said in an email to the Star Tribune.
Parise is not alone. Speed skater Tucker Fredricks asked his parents and wife to not attend the Sochi Games, which will most likely be the last Olympics he competes in.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Tucker’s father, Dan Fredricks said to ABC. “We want to go there to support him, but we understand that he has to concentrate on the race. So we said, ‘OK, we will stay at home and watch it on TV.’”
Their concerns are not without merit. Bill Rathburn, a consultant who directed security for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, told Yahoo News that it’s not a matter of if an attack will happen, but rather, when.
“The security threat is higher than it’s ever been in the history of the Olympic Games. In my opinion, it’s not a matter of whether there will be some incident, it’s just a matter of how bad it’s going to be,” Rathburn said.
Sochi is particularly vulnerable to terror threats due to its proximity to the Caucasus, which is rife with Islamic extremists. Russia has forcefully occupied Chechnya, a region in the Caucasus, for decades and the Islamic extremists in the area are looking for payback. For terrorists the Olympics is the perfect opportunity to fight for their cause, showcase their strength and humiliate Russian President Vladimir Putin on an international stage.
Russian officials believe that three female terrorists known as ‘black widows’ are already in Sochi. The ‘black widows’ are women whose husbands or family members were killed and have vowed revenge. For years they have committed some of Russia’s most notorious terrorist attacks.
[ Related: ‘Black widows’ tied to decades of terror in Russia ]
Russia has increased security, but with the threat of potential attacks growing, the Pentagon is sending two Navy warships into the Black Sea.
The Olympic Games start February 6 and the opening ceremony is scheduled for February 7.