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How Safe Will American Athletes Be at Sochi?

The Fiscal Times

As the 2014 Winter Olympics draw closer, two lawmakers have raised red flags about the safety of U.S. athletes competing in Sochi.

Speaking on the Sunday morning talk shows, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) said that they could not guarantee that Americans in Sochi would be safe. Their comments follow warnings from the State Department that American athletes not wear red, white and blue outside of their athletic competitions. The State Dept. also issued a travel warning to American tourists heading to Russia, asking them to register in advance with the government.

Related: Four Reasons Not to Boycott Russia's Olympics

“I cannot give them a 100 percent guarantee,” King said on ABC’s “This Week” when asked whether U.S. Olympians would be safe. “The fact is that these are going to be very much threatened Olympics. Probably more than any we’ve had in our past, more than Greece, certainly more than London or China. So, no, it’s — I mean, everything is being done by the United States. But the fact is this is a dangerous region in Russia by the north Caucuses. There are active terrorist organizations there.”

“Even though [Russian President Vladimir] Putin talks about the ‘Ring of Steel’ around the main Olympic venue, the fact is once you get outside that venue, or even going from venue to venue, there is real vulnerability,” King added. “I would advise the athletes that they do everything they’re asked to do by the security team, by the State Department, by the FBI, because they may feel safe, they may feel secure, wander off or wear some indicator that they’re from the U.S. and just leave themselves open as a target.”

The Pentagon has sent two U.S. warships to the Black Sea in the event Americans need to be evacuated.

“If we need to extract our citizens, we will have appropriate arrangements with the Russians to do this," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said earlier this week.

McCaul, speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said that the terror threat at Sochi was the “greatest I’ve ever seen.” He called on Putin to accept the help being offered by the United States.

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“I would say the area of cooperation that could be most effective but is not happening right now would be the intelligence sharing and also military sharing with respect to these IEDs being the weapon of choice for these terrorists,” McCaul said. “We have these jamming devices that could stop IEDs from going off. We've offered that to the Russians. So far they have not accepted that offer. I would implore them to work with us on that.”

Elsewhere, Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak insisted that the games would be safe.

“We have good planning. We have excellent specialists who are working on it. We have put up a pretty strong team that is working to deny terrorists any chance of success,” Kislyak told CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union.” “And I am absolutely sure that we are going to succeed.”  

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