USOC CEO Scott Blackmun expressed concern but also confidence in Russia’s focus on Olympic security after two suicide bombings in a city 400 miles northeast of Sochi.
“I think this is the first time that we’ve had an incident so close to the Games, both in terms of geography and in terms of time,” Blackmun said on TODAY on Tuesday morning. “The reality is that there are different challenges at every Games. In this case we got a preview of what could happen, but we’re very hopeful that the Russians’ commitment to security, which is, frankly, one of the highest levels of commitment we’ve ever seen from a government and an organizing committee, will serve us well.”
More than 30 people were killed in explosions Sunday and Monday in Volgograd, a city of more than one million people about 400 miles northeast of Sochi.
A National Security Council spokeswoman said the U.S. would welcome the opportunity for closer cooperation with Russian forces for the safety of everyone at the Olympics, which begin Feb. 6.
“The truth is that our interests are probably more aligned with Russia’s on this issue than any other,” Blackmun said. “So we have a fairly high degree of confidence that they are super focused on the issue right now.”
Blackmun said the U.S. Olympic Committee has contingency plans at every Games, for injuries and for incidents.
“There’s no question that it’s heightened everyone’s awareness,” Blackmun said. “We take security very seriously. Each Games presents a different kind of challenge for us, but the events of the last 48 hours have definitely gotten our attention.”
The Volgograd bombings reminded Blackmun of a recent conversation about the Olympic park in Sochi.
“Balance is exactly the right word,” Blackmun said. “It was funny. A few weeks ago, we were talking about the fact that it was going to be difficult to get in and out of the park. And I suspect that people are going to be a lot more tolerant of that today than they might have been two or three weeks ago.”