The opening ceremonies for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi are just over two weeks away but the focus thus far has been largely concerned with the safety of the athletes and spectators.
Olympic committees from numerous countries have received threats. This week Sochi police have been searching for potential suicide bombers and an Islamist militant group recently took credit for bombings that killed 34 people in Volograd in December.
Around the NHL, players set to represent their countries admit they’re worried and many have told their family members to stay home rather than come support them in Russia.
According to a report from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, neither Wild defenseman Ryan Suter nor forward Zach Parise – both members of the U.S. team — will have family in Sochi.
“I’m actually really concerned about it,” Parise told the Star Tribune. “I know they say they have evacuation stuff for us and all, but you just never know. I guess you have to wonder at what point does someone say it isn’t a good idea for us to go.”
Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, on the Canadian squad, told the Canadian Press that his family will be staying home as well.
“It’s definitely on my mind, I’m not going to lie,” Luongo told the Canadian Press. “I think we’re all a little bit concerned. We’re definitely going to keep an eye on it over the next few weeks.”
The Capitals have three players headed to Sochi next month, Alex Ovechkin (Russia), Nicklas Backstrom (Sweden) and John Carlson (U.S.). Ovechkin is a prominent face for these Olympics as his home country takes center stage in the sporting world and has said he’s confident in Russia’s ability to protect the Olympics. “I don’t think it’s going to be dangerous,” Ovechkin said during his ‘Today Show’ appearance on Monday.
Backstrom is aware of all the news and reports emanating from Sochi, but remains optimistic. His parents and brother will attend the Olympics, but Backstrom’s girlfriend, Liza Berg, and their three-month-old daughter Haley will visit family and friends in Sweden instead.
“Every [Olympics] is a target, lot of people in the same place,” Backstrom said. “There’s been a lot of threats but you can’t really think about that as players when you go there. I don’t think security’s going to be an issue over there. I heard it’s between 30,000 and 75,000 soldiers, military people, security, whatever you want to call them. I think we’ll be on the safe side.”
Carlson said he’s not concerned about the potential security risks and is focused on enjoying his first Olympic appearance. He’ll have quite the entourage in Sochi; his dad, mom, stepfather, brother, aunt and girlfriend are all making the trip.
“I’m sure it’s going to be talked about,” Carlson said. “But it’s probably going to be the safest place on Earth at that time. That’s what I think.”