USOC Warns Athletes To Hide Team Colors In Sochi, As U.S. Prepares For Attack Scenario
USOC officials are cautioning Olympic athletes to keep their red, white and blue apparel "under wraps outside the games' venues," according to Bachman & Germano of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The USOC in a memo warned athletes to "avoid wearing team colors too prominently in Sochi amid heightened concerns about security." The memo also "details other steps that athletes can take to ensure their safety while in Sochi, including enrolling in a State Department traveler program" (WSJ.com, 1/24). Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Friday said of a potential attack in Sochi, "If we need to extract our citizens, we will have appropriate arrangements with the Russians to do this." U.S. officials on Friday said that there was "no specific evacuation plan for the roughly 10,000 Americans expected to attend the Games but that military commanders in the Department of Defense have been analyzing the assets available to them -- including two Naval ships deployed to the Black Sea -- should the need arise for a mass rescue" (USATODAY.com, 1/25).
ANXIETY ATTACKS: In N.Y., Sarah Lyall in a front-page piece wrote athletes and their families are "becoming increasingly anxious about possible terrorist attacks" in Sochi -- "so much so that some families have decided not to attend and others plan to curtail their activities once they get to the Games in Russia." Though no U.S. athletes have "yet canceled plans to compete because of terrorist threats," some family members "say they are reconsidering long-held plans to support the athletes at the Games." Teams from the U.S. and some European countries "received emails this week warning them that they would be attacked if they took part in the Games." The messages "were determined to be hoaxes, but the episode added to the skittishness that is permeating the mood" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/25).
PLANS ON ICE: NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said he was "not really at liberty to discuss contingency planning" regarding NHLers in Sochi. He added via e-mail, "I don’t anticipate having to reconsider our decision to participate, but I’m also not in a position of knowing what the next 15 days will bring. We won’t put our athletes in a situation where it is obvious that their participation would subject them to an unreasonable risk of danger" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/25). The CBC's Glenn Healy said there are a lot of members of the NHL BOG "that are saying, 'I'm not going (to Sochi),' and some of the support staff that are getting paid to do the Olympics are getting paid more money not to bring their wives." The CBC's Elliotte Friedman said there was a "lot of surprise in the last couple of weeks at how many families decided they weren't going to go." Friedman: "I know the league and the players had kind of encouraged families not to go, but they said in the last two weeks it got ratcheted up" ("HNIC," CBC, 1/25).
CORPORATE CONCERNS: Agency and sponsor execs said that the recent bombings in Volgograd and reports of female suicide bombers in Sochi "hadn’t resulted in any canceled trips -- at least not yet -- but they acknowledged that it has affected preparations." GlideSlope President Dave Mingey, whose consulting group works with several Olympic sponsors, said security is "the most talked-about thing in many circles." London 2012 Dir of Games Operations Doug Arnot said, "If you’re a sponsor and you’ve seen a threat like this, and God forbid something does happen, and one of your principals or guests is impacted, you have a lot of explaining to do because effectively you’ve been warned and have disregarded the warning." SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Tripp Mickle notes most corporate sponsors "have their own security staff assisting with planning." McDonald's Head of Global Alliances John Lewicki said, "Every Games there are security matters, and this one seems to be more elevated. At this point, we’re not changing anything. Diligence is the word of the day" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/27 issue).
EXPENSIVE VACATION: Chicago-based Sports Traveler President Anbritt Stengele said that her agency's bookings for the Sochi Games are 80% lower than "what was expected." She added, "It's been a disappointing piece of our business. It started to fall apart when the pricing came in from our hotel suppliers." Several tour operators said that the absence of four-and five-star accommodations "has been the biggest obstacle." Stengele: "Olympic travelers tend to be high-end travelers and most of our hotels have been three stars. We only have access to one four-star property in the mountains. It's really put a damper on our sales" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/26). In San Jose, Elliott Almond wrote under the header, "Families Of U.S. Olympians Find Sticker Shock In Going To Sochi Games" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/26).