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U.S. State Department issues travel alert for Sochi Olympics

Friday, January 10, 2014
APOlympic rings for the 2014 Winter Olympics installed in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia.

AP
Olympic rings for the 2014 Winter Olympics installed in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia.

WASHINGTON — Americans planning to attend the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, should be vigilant about their security due to potential terrorist threats, crime and uncertain medical care, the State Department advised Friday.

The alert also advised lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans to review the State Department’s LGBT travel information page if they plan to visit Sochi for the Games, noting that Russia has in place a law that bans the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to minors.

It said authorities have been vague about defining “propaganda” and that the law applies to foreigners. A conviction on the charge could result in a fine, a jail term and deportation.

In a travel alert, the department said it was not aware of specific threats to U.S. interests related to the Games that begin next month. But it said large events like the Olympics are “an attractive target for terrorists” and Americans should be aware of their surroundings and take common-sense precautions to stay safe, notably on public transport.

Public transport in the general vicinity of Sochi has been targeted by terrorists as recently as late December, although the department stressed that those attacks took place in the city of Volgograd, some 600 miles from the Games venue.

A group designated by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization, the Caucasus Emirate, has called for attacks on the Olympics, it said. Although the group’s ability to strike the Games is not clear, the alert noted that the group has in the past been responsible for large-scale attacks on targets including a ski resort, a metro system, a high-speed rail, an airport and a theater.

The alert pointed out that Russia has vowed to take appropriate security measures to protect athletes, spectators and infrastructure. On Thursday in Washington, FBI Director James Comey said the Russians are devoting substantial resources and effort to securing the Olympics.

“We have been in regular communication – including me personally – with their security organizations to make sure we’re coordinating well. I think that we are,” Comey told reporters in Washington. “We’ve improved our information sharing on counterterrorism and it’s important. Securing any Olympics is an enormous task. It’s particularly challenging in Sochi because of its proximity to areas of unrest and sources of the terrorist thre at. The Russian government understands the threat and is devoting the resources to address it.”

Comey said the FBI would deploy “at least a couple dozen people in Moscow and maybe a smaller number but still a dozen or more people of different specialties” in Sochi.

In addition to the potential for terrorism, the State Department said Americans should consider buying private medical evacuation insurance if they attend the Olympics as medical facilities are “untested” in Sochi, which has never before hosted such a large event.

It also warned Americans to be wary of common criminal activity, which tends to rise at most large gatherings around the world.

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56 more reader comments:

  1. looks like no one going if that’s the case.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 9:36pm
  2. Boycott…

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 9:36pm
  3. I wouldn’t spend a dime in that country!

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 9:37pm
  4. We should boy cot

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 9:38pm
  5. I visited Moscow and St.Petersburg as a tourist in the late 90′s and enjoyed the gay bars and dance clubs. I would never return there now!

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 9:41pm
  6. I love the Olympics. This is too scary.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 9:42pm
  7. I really hope nothing bad happens to anybody over there when it starts but I have a bad feeling somebody is going to get hurt…..Americans can’t keep their mouths shut I fear someone sticking up for lgbt privately or in the open is going to cause a reaction :(

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 9:43pm
  8. I honestly feel so worried for all of the athletes that have trained so hard and in some cases, for their whole lives for this opportunity. It doesn’t really matter anymore what anyone feels is equal or just, what matters is that people around the world, US included, are hurting and killing each other because some of us are different. How anyone can hate to this extreme, scares me.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 9:43pm
  9. Not watching. Will get my news about the games from Facebook.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 9:44pm
  10. Same here

    Replied on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:00pm
  11. I'm worried about our brothes and sisters who have to LIVE THERE every day... not just during the Olympics.

    Replied on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:07pm
  12. I agree Angelle. People outside the LGBT community don't realize how terrible it is there for Russian LGBT citizens.

    Replied on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:47pm
  13. Anyone else think it is ironic that the Olympic rings are the colors of the rainbow? :)

    Replied on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 4:13am
  14. I am worried for our brother and sisters that will be there.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 9:44pm
  15. Not just athletes. Lots of people covering the event as well.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 9:45pm
  16. Putin = Coward

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 9:48pm
  17. Putin = Bigot scum

    Replied on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 4:14am
  18. THEY ALREADY BOMBED…THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING…

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 9:48pm
  19. Not going or tuning in

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 9:49pm
  20. I thought that was a roller coaster. Yikes! But yeah, I hope nothing bad happens.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 9:52pm
  21. I sincerely hope they have the airforce standing by to evacuate our people and those who might be wounded.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:07pm
  22. F*ck a travel alert…BOYCOTT!!!

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:11pm
  23. Boycott!!!!!!!

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:12pm
  24. best wishes

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:14pm
  25. This is sad. I say, tourists, vote with your dollars and don’t go to Sochi.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:18pm
  26. YES, BE CAREFUL, STAY SAFE.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:22pm
  27. Especially for the LGBT community – attacks will happen – just listen closely to the news and you will hear of them as minor scuffles.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:24pm
  28. I wish to support our teams but I will not support Putin or his oppression!

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:24pm
  29. BOYCOTT!
    The Olympic Committee should have taken Canada’s offer and move the games! I will not watch or support any company that sponsors the Olympics this year!

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:27pm
  30. I have an idea: DONT GO!

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:29pm
  31. Boycott Sochi Olympics for the cause and safety

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:30pm
  32. send a troop of marines for each tourist going there.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:41pm
  33. Forget Sochi, bring on Rio 2016!

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:46pm
  34. Excuse me for saying this and i dont mean to come off harsh.
    Weather in school #being out worried if your going to get bullied.
    Wheather it be you are your self and society can vary from the vain and opinionated to the supportive. Yet because there are the vain does that mean dont be yourself?
    Weather it be “that day being your last”.. live dont just exist.
    Ppl train for the olympics for a REASON. Just like we live everyday. If russia has a issue, if there is a safty problem, if there is a “terroist” attack.. how is that any different then the norm that exist to day.
    I say
    Fk fear.
    Fk supposed
    Fk assuming
    Fk thinking
    And DO WHAT YOU WANT. if our fellow lgbt goes i not will only watch, but cheer and root and WITH PRIDE say we are there too. See living is fear is the reason why we fight for equality.
    Fear of not being like them. When we are.
    Change doesnt happen with our tails tucked between our legs.
    Ask anyone with in the states what it takes to be THEMSELVES Striving for their goals.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:49pm
  35. No one should be going at all. I don’t know why we did not ban this. Americans will be at risk.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:50pm
  36. What a shame they were selected for the Olympics!

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:51pm
  37. Change is made by standing up for yourself no matter how scared or the possibility of “what if”. Remember “what if something goes wrong”.. yet “what if nothing goes wrong”

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:57pm
  38. Karma is a bitch Russia government

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 11:55pm
  39. Not Going myself, but yes worried for the others.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 11:59pm
  40. #boycott

    Posted on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 12:37am
  41. WHY GO!? I am going to boycott totally, not even watching on TV or news about it. Don’t give a shit.

    Posted on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 12:53am
  42. Not going even if I could afford it and not watching it on TV either.

    Posted on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 1:06am
  43. Many things that show us that Russia really should have not gotten the Winter Olympics. Maybe the IOC will think about this the next time that they get greedy and take the highest bidder.

    Posted on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 1:10am
  44. About time!

    Posted on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 1:36am
  45. I don’t think we should attend!!!!!

    Posted on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 1:44am
  46. I have been saying for weeks Americans going to Russia will be a bad idea.

    Posted on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 3:24am
  47. Boycott, boycott

    Posted on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 4:05am
  48. Anyone else think it is ironic that the Olympic rings are the colors of the rainbow? :)

    Posted on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 4:13am
  49. Just stay away

    Posted on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 4:18am
  50. I wasn’t planning to watch, but I’m considering watching in order to support our gay athletes.

    Posted on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 6:21am
  51. YEA DONT GO!!!!!

    Posted on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 6:56am
  52. BOYCOTTBOYCOTTBOYCOTTBOYCOTTBOYCOTTBOYCOTT

    Posted on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 6:57am
  53. Tourist… save your money. Anything you purchase there is made in china anyway. Your not helping any Russian, h8ter or not.

    Posted on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 8:01am
  54. I’m worried for everyone going. The tourists, the athletes, the media, the security, the locals, and anyone close to the games that may be injured by a terrorist attack of a large scale. Why wasn’t this moved when given the chance.
    The games are putting the surrounding people, businesses, and towns in danger of attack because of all the targets for terrorists.

    Posted on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 10:06am
  55. I have no intention of watching any coverage of the Games; I know the Olympics are supposed to be non-political, but surely they are also supposed to be non-discriminatory.

    Posted on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 11:33am
  56. Bout time.

    Posted on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 11:53am