Families of U.S. Olympians were excited to follow their athletes to Sochi on root them on after years of training, but that desire to make the trip to Russia is slowly starting to subside.
Amid IOC and U.S. government warning that Americans could be the target of terrorists, many families are staying stateside and watch the Sochi Games from the comfort – and safety – of their homes.
“It’s getting to the point where our lives are on the line if we go there,” Tim Oshie, whose son, T. J., is on the United States hockey team, told the New York Times. “They’re talking about terrorizing families. I’d rather stay in the homeland.”
No athletes have threatened to pull out of the games, but with daily, fear-inducing stories about safety concerns, suicide bombers and unrest in the area, Americans aren’t feeling safe or welcome on Russian soil.
However, the U.S. government is doing it due diligence to calm the fears of citizens making the trek to Sochi. On Friday, a senior administration official told reporters that while “we’ve seen an uptick in security threats” that they’re “not unusual for a major international event like this.”
“We’ve been working long and hard to liaise with the Russian security forces,” the senior administration official added.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped the U.S. from taking extra precautions, such as placing two Navy warships in the Black Sea next to Sochi to provide a quick way to evacuate Americans in case of a terrorist attack or other emergency.
Dan Richards, the chief executive of Global Rescue, a company that provides crisis medical services and works with the United States Ski and Snowboard Association, told the Times that Sochi’s terrain, which includes mountains and the Black Sea, makes it difficult to safeguard against all attacks, but it also makes some areas more difficult to access. He said it would take a level of sophistication, not yet seen, to plan and execute an attack in some areas.
Still, the added security and reassurances aren’t making everyone feel safer.
Greg Bretz Sr., whose son is an American snowboarder, told the Times he’s declined his son’s request to hire a bodyguard for one simple reason:
“My thought is, they’re not just sniper shooting,” Bretz Sr. told the Times. “If they’re going to do anything, they’re going to blow everything up.”
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