WASHINGTON — The threat of terrorism is taking center stage even before the 2014 Winter Olympics kick off after a video surfaced from an Islamic militant group that claimed responsibility for last month’s suicide bombings.
USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan, who has been covering the Olympics since 1984, says this type of unease is nothing new. In 1998, there were violent protests in Seoul and concern North Korea would open its dams and flood the streets of South Korea, she says.
In 1996, TWA flight 800 exploded over the coast of Long Island just days before the Summer Olympics opened in Atlanta and no one knew if terrorism was behind the accident.
But one week later, domestic terrorist Eric Rudolph detonated a homemade bomb in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park, killing one and injuring 11 others.
Now just two weeks away from Sochi, attention is turning to potential threats stemming from the North Caucasus, home to a militant Islamist group.
Despite international conjecture, Brennan says she will not hesitate to cover the games.
“I don’t have apprehension because I’m a journalist. I’m going,” she says.
Unlike in years past, Brennan says the U.S. government has been more forthcoming with the media about tensions in the region.
A travel alert was issued earlier in January for Americans traveling to Russia. The State Department says it is not aware of specific threats to U.S. interests, but did say large events like the Olympics are “an attractive target for terrorists.”