With just over a month to go before the Winter Olympics get underway
in Russia, a top U.S. Olympic official addressed the pair of deadly
attacks during a 24-hour period this week in the Russian city of
"We're concerned,'' Scott Blackmun, CEO of the U.S.
Olympic Committee, told Matt Lauer Tuesday on TODAY. "I think this is
the first time that we've had an incident so close to the Games both in
terms of geography and in terms of time. The reality is that there are
different challenges at every Games. In this case we got a preview of
what could happen, but we're very hopeful that the Russians' commitment
to security, which is frankly one of the highest levels of commitment
we've ever seen from a government and an organizing committee, will
serve us well."
He added: "The truth is that our interests are
probably more aligned with Russia's on this issue than any other, and so
we have a fairly high degree of confidence that they are super focused
on the issue right now."
On Sunday a bomber set off a blast in
Volgograd's railway station, resulting in 18 deaths to date, and a
trolley bus bombing on Monday killed 15 others. The attacks in the southern Russian city
have raised fears heading into the Olympics, which will be held in
proximity to Chechnya, a sworn enemy of Russia where insurgents
regularly generate violence.
Russian president Vladimir Putin
spoke out against the attacks on Tuesday, vowing to take action against
those who had committed the bombings. "I am certain that we will
fiercely and consistently continue the fight against terrorists until
their complete annihilation," Putin said, according to Reuters, which
cited Russian news agencies. "Dear friends, we bow our heads before the
victims of cruel terrorist acts."
Chechen warlord Doku Umarov has vowed to disrupt the Sochi Games
and has claimed responsibility for similar terrorist attacks in the
name of Islam. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks in
Volgograd, according to regional governor Sergei Bazhenov.
no question that it's heightened everyone's awareness,'' Blackmun said
of the attacks. "We take security very seriously. Each Games presents a
different kind of challenge for us. The events of the last 48 hours have
definitely gotten our attention."
Seth Wescott, a two-time gold
medalist in the snowboard cross event, recently said that he may skip
the Opening Ceremony if he qualifies for the team because of safety
concerns. Sochi faces a challenge of trying to hold an athletic
competition and maintaining security while not making it seem like an
"Balance is exactly the right word,'' Blackmun said.
"It's funny; a few weeks ago we were talking about the fact that it was
going to be difficult to get in and out of the park, and I suspect that
people will be a lot more tolerant of that today than they would have
been two or three weeks ago."
Should an incident occur in Sochi, Blackmun said the U.S. delegation will be prepared.
have contingency plans at every Games,'' he told Lauer. "We have plans
for injuries and plans for incidents, so yes, we always have contingency
plans in place, and obviously we hope that they never come into being."
Scott Stump, TODAY contributor