The U.S. State Department is warning our Olympic athletes not to wear their uniforms outside of Sochi's 1,500-mile secured "ring of steel," as American officials fear they will not be able to protect Americans in the increasingly violent region.
The Wall Street Journal reviewed a memo the Olympic Committee sent to athletes, which said that "the U.S. Department of State has advised that wearing conspicuous Team USA clothing in non-accredited areas may put your personal safety at greater risk." American Olympians will obviously be an attractive target for anyone looking make trouble during the Games.
According to the WSJ, the Committee recommended athletes enroll in the State Department traveler program as well. One athlete who participated in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics said he had never received such a warning before. Earlier this month, the State Department issued a general traveler's alert for Sochi, encouraging American visitors to "remain alert regarding their personal security at all times."
And our athletes would stand out almost anywhere. This year's Ralph Lauren-brand uniforms are rather... ostentatious:
On Wednesday, a number of Olympic teams — including the United States — received letters threatening an attack during the Sochi Games. The letters were later ruled to be hoaxes, but are still increasing tension surrounding the upcoming event. Earlier this week, two Islamists who took credit for last month's dual suicide attacks on the Russian city of Volgograd made a direct threat on the Games.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has increased security in the region and spoke to President Obama on Tuesday about how to ensure that the event is safe, but some fear that Sochi is just too remote and too dangerous to properly secure. The uniform memo only underlines the fact that fears of an attack are stronger than perhaps they've ever been for a major world event. So far, no athlete has been reported to have pulled out of the Games due to safety concerns.