A threatening video released by terrorists on Sunday, has triggered anxiety among travelers planning to attend the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia next month.
On a Jihadi forum website, the hour-long video shows two men dressed in black vowing to avenge atrocities against the Muslim world. The footage reveals them preparing for a terrorist strike, possibly readying for last month’s dual suicide bombings in Volgograd, Russia that killed 34 people.
Most alarming however, is the eerie message that is directed to Russian President Vladimir Putin about his protection of the Sochi Olympics, and about the visitors planning to attend these Winter Games.
“We’ll have a surprise package for you. And those tourists that will come to you, for them, too, we have a surprise.”
This ominous threat has many Sochi Olympics travelers all across the world on high alert as they rethink their trip plans. On Sunday, during CNN’s State of the Union show, U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee lawmaker Angus King said that he would not be going to the Winter Games, and “I don't think I would send my family."
Well before this recent series of events, however, many chose to skip this world showcase of sport. Anbritt Stengele, the president of Sports Traveler tour operator company selling packages to the Sochi Games, said in a recent Travel Weekly interview, “Our bookings have been way off. It’s been a tough event for us to sell.”
Current postings to Trip Advisor, a popular internet hub where travelers share questions and anxieties, are now trending towards trip insurance concerns. Some have recently inquired about whether emergency evacuation and medical treatment provisions are covered in these policies.
Further, there is a growing aftermarket of ticket sales on eBay where sellers are unloading their tickets at low prices due to “changes in travel plans.” Many of these auctions open and close without any bidders – atypical of past Olympic Games where tickets were highly sought.
At one time, Sochi Olympic organizers had expected to welcome over 100,000 tourists, but these hopes have long since dissipated.
Having long planned for terroristic threats like these, Putin has assigned approximately 40,000 law enforcement and security staff to protect a 60 mile long by 25 mile wide footprint. This so-called “ring of steel” encompasses the Black Sea bordering cities of Sochi and Adler, where several indoor sports will be contested, and the Rosa Khutor mountain region, off to the east, for the outdoor events.
This protection was reinforced as of January 7, a month our from the Winter Olympics’ start, to fortify the stronghold against any attacks from the land, sea, or air.
Within the coastal, seaside area, security staff patrol the cities, venues, and airport in full force.
Putin offered some reassurance in an interview last week, “We will try to make certain that the security measures are not intrusive or too conspicuous, so they are not too noticeable for the athletes, the Olympics' guests or journalists," Putin said,.
Spectators are not only encouraged to don their event tickets in ticket holders slung from their necks, but also have their passport and visa at their fingertips to produce on demand.
Vigilance is the key whenever traveling abroad, and the tens of thousands of spectators will be taking their own precautions, for sure.
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