Winter Olympics safe in wake of bombings, says IOC

In the aftermath of two suicide bombings within 24 hours which killed at least 31 people in a southern Russian city, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said he is confident Russia will deliver "a safe and secure Games in Sochi."

"I have personally written to the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, to express our condolences to the Russian people," Bach said in a statement on Monday. "I am certain that everything will be done to ensure the security of the athletes and all the participants of the Olympic Games."

"This is a despicable attack on innocent people and the entire Olympic movement joins me in utterly condemning this cowardly act. Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the victims," Bach said.

The attack highlights the terror threat Russia faces as it prepares to host the Winter Games in six weeks. A suicide bomber on a bus early Monday in Volgograd killed at least 14 people and left nearly 30 wounded, Russian officials said, according to the Associated Press. This comes a day after another suicide bombing killed at least 17 at a railway station in the city.

The blasts are believed to be linked but no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, which came several months after Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov called for attacks against civilian targets in Russia. Umarov, leader of a terrorist group that calls itself the Caucasus Emirate, has called on Muslims to disrupt the Olympics, which will be held in Sochi.

Just two months ago, a western security official with knowledge of the Russian Olympic security plan told USA TODAY Sports there was concern that so many resources had been dispatched to lock down Sochi that other potential targets throughout the country, including transportation hubs, could be vulnerable.

The Russian government has streamed police and military forces into the region in huge numbers to guard the perimeter from potential attack.

Russia's security plan for the Olympics has created a bubble around the venues, but if the plan fails, there is limited access in and out of the venues for medical personnel, said the Western security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly.

The U.S. State Department, in its advisory to U.S. residents attending the Sochi Games, has noted the security risks that exist just more than 100 miles from some of the mountain venues.

Volgograd is a major rail hub in southern Russia and a main transit point for people traveling by train to Sochi. Each day, thousands of passengers use the station in the city once called Stalingrad. It is about 400 miles northeast of Sochi.

Russia has pledged to spare no expense when it comes to security. With a $50 billion budget, the Sochi Olympics will be the most expensive in history and will be the "safest games ever," according to Sochi organizing committee president Dmitry Chernyshenko.

"We should recognize the global threat is terrorism and terrorism has no boundaries," Chernyshenko told USA TODAY Sports last month. "There's no difference between Vancouver or London or wherever. During the Salt Lake Games, the security was on highest level after 9/11. I can tell you from the early stages, a constructive dialogue between the security agencies of Russia and USA was established. The authorities are in close cooperation, combining efforts to help Russia provide the safest games."

Bach echoed Chernyshenko's comments in Monday's statement. "Sadly terrorism is a global disease but it must never be allowed to triumph. The Olympic Games are about bringing people from all backgrounds and beliefs together to overcome our differences in a peaceful way. The many messages of support and solidarity from the international community make me confident that this message will also be delivered by the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi."

Also Monday, the U.S. state department condemned the assault in a statement: ""We send our sincere condolences to the families of the victims and stand in solidarity with the Russian people against terrorism of any kind.'

Contributing: Kevin Johnson


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