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The Mass Media

Athletes, and not politics, should take center stage in the upcoming Sochi Olympics

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 06: Tennis legend Billie Jean King speaks with sportscaster Mary Carillo during the Q&A at Kings 70th Birthday Party Celebration organized by the Womens Sports Foundation at the Museum of Art and Design on November 6, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Womens Sports Foundation)

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 06: Tennis legend Billie Jean King speaks with sportscaster Mary Carillo during the Q&A at King’s 70th Birthday Party Celebration organized by the Women’s Sports Foundation at the Museum of Art and Design on November 6, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Women’s Sports Foundation)

The Winter Olympics are rapidly approaching, and when they arrive, it will be all that America will be talking about. However, this time around it appears as though the great displays of sportsmanship or the incredible athletic achievements that we’ve associated with the Olympics will be taking a backseat to the things that our parents associated with the games: political unrest, international tensions, and terrorist threats. There was even talk as recently as last year about the US boycotting the Sochi games.

Russia has recently infuriated Americans with laws that range from gay people not being allowed to speak about gay rights, to children, to US citizens no longer being able to adopt children from Russia. You can see why many Americans would suggest not participating in the games this year, but that simply should not be the case. The Olympics are a celebration of sport, not a platform for one to put forth their political beliefs, and I’ve always been in the camp that the athletes need to be the focus of the games and not a nation’s ridiculous laws.
As much as I disagree with Russia’s anti gay and adoption laws, I believe that the US contingent is right in competing in Sochi. President Obama is spot on in his decision not to attend the games, but to send a delegation led by Billie Jean King to represent the United States. That was one of the most calculated and excellent decisions of not only this past year, but Obama’s entire presidency.

While Russia’s politics may not be a good reason to skip out on the Olympics, there is a good one out there.

It has been widely reported that, amidst all the terror threats which were dismissed as baseless, a well known terrorist might have snuck into the country.

The terrorist may have broken through Sochi’s ring of security and is possibly in the city as we speak. Sochi is in a region known as the Caucasus, which is basically on the border of Europe and Asia. Some of the nastiest terrorist cells on earth call this area home, and anyone like me who was within proximity to the Marathon Bombing knows what they are capable of.

The Olympics historically have been a target for terrorist attacks. We’re talking about attacks on US soil or attacks by Palestinians thousands of miles away in Germany, these Olympic games are in the backyards of certain terror cells. As if that wasn’t enough to shake confidence in the security of the Olympics, the strained diplomatic relationship between the US and Russia has meant that we have helped less with security for these games than we did for London, Vancouver, Athens, or even Beijing.

However there has been some US involvement in security measures, according to ABC news, the US and Russia recently teamed up to begin installing anti-bomb equipment. Nonetheless, according to the State Department, the installation process might be unable to proceed as planned due to time shortages, with the games looming ever closer.

The fear has increased to such an extent that Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, two members of the US Olympic Hockey Team, have told their families not to travel to Sochi and instead to watch the games from home. Many other athletes have followed suit.

A full-scale boycott is extreme. The Olympics are literally a once in a lifetime chance for most of the athletes participating. There is no Super Bowl for Ski Jumping, no Stanley Cup of Skeleton if you will.

However, I can think of very few good reasons to voluntarily travel to these particular games, unless you are participating in them. Security around the athletes will be extremely high, but the same can’t be said for spectators. There is too much risk associated with these games to make traveling to them worth visiting. 

For participating athletes, this is the holy grail. For spectators, Sochi will leave a lot to be desired.