U.S. athletes warned: No Olympic uniform outside Sochi venues
WASHINGTON (CNN) — American athletes are being warned not to wear their Olympic uniforms outside of the upcoming Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, where they will be under the watchful eye of U.S. security officials who will attend events with them, State Department officials said Friday.
The news about the security steps being taken to safeguard the U.S. Olympic team follow revelations this week that Russian authorities were searching for a wanted terror suspect in and around the vicinity of the upcoming Games.
It was just one of what a senior State Department official has described as an “uptick in threat reporting” in the lead-up the Olympics, scheduled for February 7-23.
“Our expectation is that we will see more in the coming weeks,” the official, speaking on background, told reporters during a briefing on Olympic security measures.
Among the steps being taken is a warning to athletes, coaches and officials not wear their red-white-and-blue Olympic uniforms when away from competition.
“If you are an American Olympic athlete, you don’t want to advertise that far outside the Olympic venues,” another senior State Department official, speaking on background, told reporters during a briefing.
The officials confirmed the advice was provided by the security coordinator of the U.S. Olympic team, a story that was first reported Friday by The Wall Street Journal.
Additionally, the security for individual athletes will be very tight. State Department security personnel will be accompanying athletes to every single event, every single venue.
“….It is to make sure we have eyes on the teams and eyes on the events,” another senior State Department official said.
The officials did not say how many U.S. security officials would be on the ground with the U.S. Olympic team in Sochi, but the number is likely to be considerable given there are more than 230 athletes and 270 coaches and other U.S. officials.
That doesn’t take into account the roughly 10,000 U.S. citizens, according to State Department estimates, who are expected to attend the Games as spectators.
Even as the State Department officials said there was “no specific Sochi Olympic evacuation plan that we are ready to just pull off,” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel appeared to indicate there was a plan of some sort.
“We’ve had conversations with the Russian government on protection of our citizens,” Hagel told reporters.
“… If we need to extract our citizens, we will have appropriate arrangements with the Russians to do that.”
Russia has not asked the United States for “any specific assistance or technology,” Hagel said.
The United States is moving two warships into the Black Sea, Hagel said.
“We want to help. But right now there has been no request from the Russian government for any particular assistance.”
Barbara Starr reported from Washington; Chelsea J. Carter reported and wrote from Atlanta.