A terror threat has the Winter Olympics on high alert. Russian officials are searching for three suspected female suicide bombers including a woman called a “black widow,” which refers to widows of Islamic militants killed by security forces.
Officials fear she may already be in Sochi. But concerns about security aren’t stopping some fans here in Western New York who plan to attend the Olympics.
One year ago, when they began planning their trip to Sochi, Amherst natives Tim O’Connor and Stephen Arlington started paying close attention to terrorist attacks.
“Even way back during the Boston bombing, there was that kind of tie that not many people thought of the Olympics back then, but we were already thinking about that,” Arlington said.
Even though authorities in Sochi are actively investigating terrorist threats, O’Connor and Arlington say it won’t stop them from going. And it won’t damper their enthusiasm.
“I think I hesitated for about one second, perhaps,” O’Connor said.
“So it’s in the back of our minds. It’s something to be aware of, but it’s not a deterrent. It’s not going to stop us from going. We’re still going to represent America. Just be very vigilant and cautious,” Arlington said.
The U.S. is moving two Navy ships into the Black Sea in case Americans need to be evacuated at any point during the games.
Some Washington lawmakers have gone so far as to recommend Americans stay home. But U.S. Senator Charles Schumer says U.S. citizens should go if they want to.
“If residents are going there, I think it will be safe. I do. Given the precautions that have been taken,” Schumer said. “One thing about Putin, and he’s not my favorite. He is going to be tight as a drum to make sure there is no terrorist incident.”
But the threat is seemingly affecting some potential fans. Thirty percent of the tickets for Olympic events reportedly remain unsold.
But O’Connor and Arlington bought tickets for nearly 40 events and are excited for the chance to represent the Queen City in the international spotlight.
“We’re going basically as ambassadors of our country, but also our region,” Arlington said.
Arlington and O’Connor made pins that read, “Buffalo, NY — Sochi 2014” to give out at the games.
Opening ceremonies begin in 17 days.