Obama: Winter Olympics safe for Americans

Posted by William Douglas on January 31, 2014 

TRAVEL WLT-SOCHI 6 LA

The Sochi Winter Olympics in February will include many events in the Laura biathlon and ski complex, which stands upslope from the green-roofed Grand Hotel Polyana.

CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS — Los Angeles Times/MCT

— President Barack Obama said that it's safe for Americans to attend next week's Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

In an interview on CNN's 'The Lead with Jake Tapper' that airs Friday afternoon, Obama said that "I believe Sochi is safe" but added that "there are risks in the large international gatherings."

'But the Russian authorities understand the stakes here,' Obama said. 'They understand that there are potential threats that are out there. And we are coordinating with them. We've looked at their plans. I think we have a good sense  of the security that they're putting in place to protect not only the athletes themselves, but also visitors there.'

Two deadly suicide bombings in Volgograd and a call last July by Doku Umarov, a Chechen rebel leader, for his followers to use "maximum force: to disrupt the Winter Olympics, has made some athletes and sports fans nervous.

Some Americans who were planning on going to Sochi have said they're second thoughts because of the threats and the Black Sea city's proximity to Chechnya. Some members of Congress have said the potential for a terrorist act during the Olympics is too great for Americans citizens to attend.

Vice President Joe Biden said earlier this week that he would send his family to Sochi but would urge them to exercise caution.

'So what I would say is that if you want to go to the Olympics, you should go to the Olympics," Obama said. "And...we're not discouraging, in any way, Americans from participating in what is just always an amazing wonderful even.' 

The president urged Americans who are going to Sochi to visit the State Department web site and 'look at what kinds of...prudent measures you should take that wouldn't necessarily be unique to Sochi.'

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