As Russia begins the 100-day countdown to the Sochi Games, last week's deadly assault on a passenger bus in the town of Volgograd has "diverted attention from other pressing questions of readiness that have dogged final preparations for several recent Olympics," according to Kevin Johnson of USA TODAY. Security is among the "most pressing concerns for organizers, who have faced questions about Russia's law banning gay 'propaganda,' passed in June, and the city's ability to host thousands of visitors in an area where venues, hotels and transportation infrastructure are being built from scratch." No other recent Olympic city has "faced the security challenge that confronts Russia." The U.S. State Department in an advisory to U.S. residents attending the Games "noted the security risks that exist just more than 100 miles from some of the mountain venues." The same advisory also "contained a warning about the potential ramifications related to the anti-gay law passed this year." However, the IOC has said that it is "'fully satisfied' that Russia's anti-gay law won't violate the Olympic charter's anti-discrimination clause." A source said that Russia's security plan for the Olympics has "created a secure bubble around the venues, but if the plan fails, there is limited access in and out of the venues for medical personnel." The source added that so much Russian security "is being deployed to Sochi that other potential targets in Russia could be vulnerable and equally disruptive, like the bus bombing in Volgograd" (USA TODAY, 10/29).
READY TO GET STARTED: NBC's "Today" celebrated the 100-day mark until Sochi by welcoming many Olympic hopefuls to the set. Gold Medal-winning figure skater Sarah Hughes and snowboarder Louie Vito displayed USOC apparel. Hughes said all the "proceeds go to support Olympians and Paralympians." Ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White skated at Rockefeller Center, skier Torin Yater-Wallace and ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson discussed their preparation, Nordic combined skier Billy Demong demonstrated his training regimen and skier Ted Ligety and snowboarder Kelly Clark sampled some Russian food. Yater-Wallace said of the ski half-pipe event, a new event in the Olympics, "Spectators can expect to see a lot of big air and tricks in the half-pipe and real excitement." Hendrickson said women's ski jumping, also a new Olympic event, is "not really hard on the body at all." Hendrickson: "It's very safe and … the women's ski jumpers are just really excited to finally be a part of the Olympics." NBC's Matt Lauer said of travelling to Sochi to cover the Games as the second hour of the show was signing off, "The Olympic Games are always great" ("Today," NBC, 10/29).