U.S. Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun declined Thursday to address reports that the U.S. State Department has warned airlines bound for Russia about potential bomb-making materials being smuggled aboard in toothpaste tubes, saying he didn’t want to undermine an effective security response.
But during a press briefing the day competition got under way at the 2010 Winter Games, Blackmun voiced full confidence that Russia was doing everything possible to safeguard the Games and reiterated that the safety of U.S. athletes was the USOC’s primary concern.
“Anytime you have an event of this scope and scale there are security threats, there are terrorism threats,” said Blackmun, who was queried extensively about security matters during Thursday’s USOC briefing. “What makes this one a little bit different and, frankly, a little bit concerning when you think about it is that someone has surfaced and made an express threat.”
Blackmun referenced December’s two suicide bombings in Volgograd — about 600 miles northeast of Sochi — which killed 34, as a turning point in attitudes toward security measures.
“A few months ago, before Volgograd, we were really concerned about disruptions and the nature of the security—that there would be long lines and it could be a hassle getting to the venues,” Blackmun said. “Then Volgograd happened, and it kind of flipped, People became very tolerant of those kinds of inconveniences and discomfort. I think that’s where we are right now. You’re not going to hear our delegation complain about security procedures.”
Regarding a potential U.S. bid for the 2024 Summer Games, Blackmun said the USOC had received encouraging signals from the IOC about its prospects but hadn’t decided whether to seek the 2024 Games. If it opted not to, it would then consider bidding for the 2026 Winter Games. In either case, Blackmun said he hoped that the cost of staging the Games would be less than the record $51 billion Russia has reportedly spent to host the Sochi Olympics.