Invoking the Boston Marathon bombing, President Obama told CNN in an exclusive interview to be broadcast Friday that he can’t “discount” the possibility that a terrorist might target the Winter Olympics Games in Sochi, Russia. Obama also told the news network’s Jake Tapper that he prefers it when American authorities have “full control” over security measures.
Tapper asked the president in an interview conducted Thursday what he would tell close friends who might be thinking of attending the competition.
“I'd tell them that I believe that Sochi is safe and that there are always some risks in these large international gatherings,” Obama replied.
“What I would say is is that if you want to go to the Olympics, you should go to the Olympics,” the president added. “And, you know, we're not discouraging, in any way, Americans from participating in what is just always an amazing, wonderful event.”
Still, the president said he feels more confident about major public events inside the United States “because then we have full control over what happens.”
“But the Russian authorities understand the stakes here. They understand that there are potential threats that are out there,” Obama said. “We are coordinating with them. We've looked at their plans. I think we have a good sense of the security that they're putting in place to protect not only the athletes themselves, but also visitors there.”
The United States and Britain have cautioned athletes bound for the games not to make a big show of advertising their country of origin on the sidelines of the Olympics, which will run Feb 7-23.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has put nearly 40,000 security personnel on combat alert for the games in the aftermath of suicide bombings last month that killed 34 people in Volgograd, some 400 miles northeast of Sochi.
“In these large settings like this, there are always some risk involved. And I don't want to completely discount those,” Obama said. “But as we've seen here in the United States and, you know, at the Boston Marathon, there were some risks if you have lone wolfs, or small cells of folks who are trying to do some damage.”
Americans looking to travel to Sochi should follow the State Department’s advice to let U.S. authorities know of their plans and should take “prudent measures,” Obama said.