Are the Olympics Safe?
People heading to Sochi now have to worry about toothpaste explosives, too. Yes: toothpaste explosives. For months, safety concerns have surrounded the Winter Games, and now the US has warned airlines flying to Russia that explosive materials could possibly be hidden in toothpaste or makeup tubes. Threats of violence at the Olympics are nothing new, and so far, the government assures that it's still safe to travel to Sochi. Officials are monitoring the situation, and US counterterrorism official Matthew Olsen told Congress, "There are a number of specific threats of varying degrees of credibility that we're tracking, and we're working very closely with the Russians and with other partners to monitor any threats we see and to disrupt those."
It marks the latest in a series of worries. In recent weeks, Sochi had to deal with black widows, and we don't mean the spiders. Russian authorities are combing areas in and around Sochi looking for potential suicide bombers named after the deadly spiders. This breed of terrorists is made up of women who are avenging the deaths of their husbands, sons, or brothers who have been killed by Russian security forces, and they come from Russia's North Caucasus region, which is increasingly influenced by Islamist militants. One such "black widow" may already be in Sochi. Her photo, seen above, has been released to the public. She is a 22-year-old widow named Ruzanna Ibragimova.
Russia says it has the situation well under control. And threats emailed to various national teams, including the US, were recently deemed a hoax. But as the security forces look for potential threats, more are being made. Last month, an insurgent group released a video of two men wearing suicide vests and promising a present for Russian President Vladimir Putin if he did not shut down the Games. They may be getting their wish, to a degree. Only 70 percent of tickets have been sold, and some American Olympians are asking their families to stay home and watch them on TV from the good old US of A. The US Olympic Committee also sent a memo to the team warning athletes against wearing their Team USA clothing, designed by Ralph Lauren, out and about in Sochi.
Between Russia's antigay laws and the latest security concerns, we're wondering if the typically uplifting Olympics will be a bit of a downer. But for the sake of the athletes who have worked so hard to get there, we're rooting for it to be a safe success.