* President Barack Obama says he believes the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, will be safe and is not discouraging Americans from attending – despite the threat of terrorist attacks by Islamic insurgents the North Caucasus region and a pair of suicide bombings in late December that killed 34 people in Volgograd, 400 miles from Sochi.
He says Russian authorities “understand the stakes” involved in securing the games and the potential threats against the events. He says the U.S. is coordinating with Russia and officials have examined the Russian security plans.
Still, Obama says there are “always some risks” involved with large international gatherings like the Olympics. And he says he feels better when those types of events are held in the United States because American officials have full control over what happens.
Five days before the opening ceremony, new IOC President Thomas Bach will convene his inner cabinet Sunday to review final preparations and security plans for the Sochi Games.
The Sochi organizing committee will be reporting to the IOC board on Sunday, and Russia’s security operation will be high on the agenda. Russia is deploying more than 50,000 police and soldiers to protect the games, the biggest security apparatus in Olympic history.
IOC leaders, who have repeatedly expressed confidence in Russia’s ability to secure the games, will be looking for last-minute reassurances.
In addition to the suicide bombings, the buildup to Sochi has been overshadowed by Western criticism of Russia’s law banning gay “propaganda.”