Obama: I believe Sochi is ‘safe’ despite Olympics terrorism risk
US President Barack Obama said in an interview that aired Friday that the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi will be “safe,” although he cautioned there were “always some risks” of a terror attack.
The United States has “a good sense” of the security measures being put in place by Russia, Obama said, adding that Americans planning to go to the Games in the Black Sea resort should do so.
“I’d tell them that I believe Sochi is safe, and that there are always some risks in these large international gatherings,” he said in the interview with CNN.
“But the Russian authorities understand the stakes here. They understand there are potential threats that are out there, and we are coordinating with them,” Obama said.
Obama’s comments followed warnings by some prominent US lawmakers of the heightened risk of attacks and complaints that the Russians were not sharing intelligence with the Americans.
Some had said they would advise their constituents and family members to stay away from the Games, which run from February 7-23.
Security fears have been exacerbated by two suicide bombings in the southern city of Volgograd last month — Russia’s deadliest in three years — that killed 34 people.
US National Intelligence Director James Clapper said earlier this week that there had been a rise in reported threats related to the Winter Games, which was not unusual for big international events.
But Obama said, “We’re not discouraging in any way Americans from participating in what is always an amazing and wonderful event.
“In these large settings like this, there are always some risks involved. And I don’t want to completely discount those.
“As we’ve seen here in the United States, the Boston Marathon, there were some risks if you have cells of folks who are trying to do some damage.”
He was referring to two bombings near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 that killed three people and injured 264 others.
The attack was allegedly carried out by two ethnic Chechen brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Federal prosecutors said this week they will seek the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was 19 at the time of the attacks. His 26-year-old brother Tamerlan was killed in a shoot-out with police.