A CNN/ORC poll shows that 57 percent of Americans believe that an attack on the Olympic games is “likely.”
A similar poll conducted about the Atlanta Summer Olympics found that 51 percent believed there would be a terrorist attack and the suspicions ultimately would prove true when Eric Robert Rudolph detonated three pipe bombs killing 2 and injuring 111 people in Centennial Olympic Park on July 27, 1996.
Tensions are running high as the games are being staged near the volatile Caucasus region, with militants pledging to attack the games and urging other groups to follow their lead. Russia has responded by creating a “Ring of Steel” and stepping up security around the games.
Meanwhile, Russian state news agency Itar-Tass is reporting that the suspected mastermind behind the highly embarrassing twin suicide bomb attack in December has been killed in a shootout with Russian security forces.
Crackdowns against militants from Caucasus Emirate and Imarat Kavkaz have also increased as Russia aims to put on a good show for the world’s media and demonstrate that the games are secure, but intelligence experts remain unconvinced.
Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, “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.”
Officials from the Austrian Olympic team have reported that two of their female athletes have received threats.
The entertainment website TMZ has reported that American brewing company Anheuser-Busch is pulling out of the 2014 Olympics on the day of the opening ceremony. While Budweiser would not specify a reason for pulling out, TMZ claims to have seen an internal email from the brewer stating that “the company does not want its U.S.-based representatives in Sochi … and the message is clear — the terrorist threat is simply looming too large.”
Faith in the ability of Russia to run a successful and safe Olympics have been further dented by a nonstop series of embarrassing revelations coming out of Sochi. Reporters have been tweeting their contempt for the state of their accommodation, the lack of basic plumbing, stray dogs being poisoned on the streets and left to die, and a seeming admission by the Russians that the hotel rooms of foreign media personnel are being bugged and that the showers have video cameras on them.
The White House has released a statement concerning the security situation in Sochi saying, President Barack Obama “was assured by his team that they are taking all appropriate steps regarding the safety of Americans. He directed them to continue to work closely with the Russian government and other partners toward a secure and successful Sochi Games, and to review carefully and act on any new information that might affect the security of the Games.”