US Olympians in Sochi told to limit the red, white and blue

McClatchy Washington BureauJanuary 24, 2014 

US Uniforms-Ralph Lauren

American Olympic ice hockey player Julie Chu wearing the official uniform for Team USA to be worn at the opening ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia. It was made by Ralph Lauren.

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U.S. athletes are being told not to wear their official Olympic uniforms outside accredited events in Sochi, due to security concerns.

The U.S. Olympic team's security coordinator issued the warning in the wake of what the U.S. government says is an uptick in threats against the Winter games, officials with the State Department said Friday.

They said outside security experts believe it's more likely that attacks could happen at "soft targets" outside the actual Olympics.

"I think it’s just common sense that perhaps if you’re an American Olympic athlete, you perhaps don’t want to advertise that so much directly outside of -- or far outside of -- the venues," a senior State Department official told reporters.

An estimated 10,000 Americans are expected at the Games as spectators, and the State Department said U.S. consular services will be in Sochi "in force" to help Americans visiting the country. The department has already issued a travel alert, cautioning those attending the Games to be vigilant.

The U.S. will have diplomatic security agents and representatives from other federal agencies, including the FBI, in Sochi, officials said, and American diplomatic security agents will accompany the American teams to all of the venues.

The agents will oversee "the levels of security that we’re getting and making sure that our Olympic teams and our Olympic participants are as safe and secure as they can be," a senior State Department official said. US officials on hand will include experts that can help with counterterrorism, and improvised explosive devices, the official said.

Officials said they've seen an uptick in threat reporting and are aware of reports of potential threats, including the media reports of female suicide bombers and a video posted online claiming responsibility for the tragic bombings in Volgograd that also promised more attacks during the Games.

White House officials have said they'd like more cooperation with the Russians on security and State Department officials said they're working with the Russians, but also looking at independent sources of information.

The officials said there are no specific evacuation plans for the Olympics, but that U.S. government officials are prepared if there is a need -- and said the U.S. has been working with the Russian government "for months, if not years," on security arrangements for the Games.

"We’ve seen the Russians take this very seriously," the official said. "They are devoting significant resources to security in the region."

US officials wouldn't say how many US officials will be in country, simply saying they're the "appropriate numbers and they’re about the same numbers as we’ve had in Olympics in the past in other countries."

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