The IOC has expressed full confidence that the Sochi Games will be safe, despite two deadly suicide bombings in Russia that prompted the US to offer security help amid concerns terrorists will attack the event.
The International Olympic Committee said on Monday that Thomas Bachwrote, the IOC President, had written to Russian President Vladimir Putin to offer his condolences following the attacks on Sunday and Monday that killed more than 30 people in Volgograd, Southern Russia.
This came suddenly and I need to find out more about it. But one is slightly prepared for this kind of thing to happen and of course I'm a bit scared.
“This is a despicable attack on innocent people and the entire Olympic Movement joins me in utterly condemning this cowardly act,” Bach said in a written statement.
Volgograd is located about 650 kilometers northeast of Sochi, which will host the Olympics from February 7-23.
Russian authorities believe the two attacks were carried out by the same group.
No one claimed responsibility for the bombings, which came several months after Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov threatened new attacks against civilian targets in Russia – including the Olympics.
Bach expressed in his letter to Putin confidence in authorities that Russia’s first Winter Games would be safe and secure.
“I am certain that everything will be done to ensure the security of the athletes and all the participants of the Olympic Games,” he said.
“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.”
Russian Olympic Committee chief Alexander Zhukov said there was no need to take any extra steps to secure Sochi in the wake of the Volgograd bombings because everything necessary already had been done.
Still, the Volgograd bombings have brought home the security threat to Olympic athletes and administrators preparing to travel to Sochi.
Rene Fasel, president of the international ice hockey federation and head of the umbrella group of winter Olympic sports bodies, said security in Sochi will be similar to Salt Lake City when it hosted the 2002 Winter Games just months after the September 11, 2001, terrorism attacks in the US.
“It will be very difficult for everybody; pople will complain about security,” Fasel told AP news agency.
“I’m sure the Russians will do everything possible, but that means we will have an unbelievable security control.”
Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjoergen said on Sunday she was frightened by the first attack in Volgograd.
“It’s still difficult to say whether it has anything to do with the Sochi Olympics,” she told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.
“This came suddenly and I need to find out more about it. But one is slightly prepared for this kind of thing to happen and of course I’m a bit scared.
“I’m counting on that they will take good care of us and that we have good security during the games in Sochi.”
The British Olympic Association said it was monitoring the situation in Volgograd and was in regular contact with the Foreign Office, police, the IOC, other governing bodies and athletes.
“Our preparations for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games continue and we are confident the Russian officials will regularly assess the security measures that are in place to make certain the environment is as safe as possible,” the BOA said.