State Dept. Warns Olympic Athletes Against Wearing Uniforms Around Sochi
The official U.S. Olympic team uniforms were unveiled this week, but a new memo warns athletes against wearing the red, white, and blue star-clad cardigans outside of official Olympic venues. A memo released by the U.S. Olympic Committee informs athletes that the State Department has advised that "wearing conspicuous Team USA clothing" outside of Olympic venues could put them at a greater risk. The latest security alert comes days after warnings over a group of marauding female suicide bombers who could potentially target Sochi, and the posting of a threatening video by an Islamic militant group online.
The Wall Street Journal spoke with Greg Bretz, a snowboard half-pipe rider, who remained optimistic and not concerned about the threat to security in Sochi, which will be his second Olympics.
Greg Bretz, a snowboard half-pipe rider preparing for his second Olympics, said in an interview Thursday that U.S. Olympic officials "have told us not to wear our USA gear outside of the venues," but added, "I have so much faith in the United States and our safety that I'm not too worried about it."
Officials caution athletes about safety at each Olympics, but the warning about Team USA gear seemed new to Bretz, who also competed four years ago in Vancouver and said he received no such warning then.
The USOC declined to comment on the memo but reiterated a statement from Chief Executive Scott Blackmun, who said the committee is working with the State Department, local organizers and law enforcement to ensure athletes' safety. The State Department didn't respond to a request for comment.
The athletes' apparent warning follows a State Department travel alert for American Olympic enthusiasts who plan to travel to Sochi, as well as a warning specifically for LGBT-identifying travelers. It all indicates that the threat of an attack remains high, despite a discussion between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin on how to best have a safe Olympics. Still, the caution may be overblown, as Bustle reported:
But the International Olympic Committee is not concerned about the latest threats against the Winter Games, which run from Feb. 7 until Feb. 23. While the IOC says it takes security very seriously, it says these kinds of email are “everyday” and “normal” to get before each Olympics:
“(We will) pass on any credible information to the relevant security services. However, in this case, it seems like the email sent to the Hungarian Olympic Committee contains no threat and appears to be a random message from a member of the public.”
The increasing tension about terrorism at the Sochi Olympics has not been brushed off by all the athletes, though. U.S. Olympic speed skater Tucker Fredricks, has asked his family to stay at home to watch him compete because of terror threats. Fredricks says he doesn’t want to worry about the safety of his wife and parents at the Games, instead focusing his full attention on his sport.
Scott Blackmun, chief executive of the U.S. Olympics Committee, said the group is working to ensure athlete's safety in Russia, and is working with the State Department and local law enforcement. The U.S. Olympic Committee has also advised athletes to enroll in the State Department's traveler program.
Image: Ralph Lauren