Local athletes weigh in on Olympic security concerns

BUFFALO, N.Y - Olympic organizing committee chief Dmitry Chernyshenko says Sochi is "fully ready" and is the "most secure venue at the moment on the planet."

Russia is deploying more than 50,000 police and soldiers to guard the Olympics after a Muslim militant group claimed responsibility for back-to-back suicide bombings that killed 34 people in late December, threatening further attacks on the games.

The Western New York hockey community will be well represented: Sabres Henrik Tallinder and Jhonas Enroth play for Sweden; Zemgus Girgensons plays for, and Ted Nolan will be coaching, Latvia; and Ryan Miller back-stops the U.S.A. team. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Penguin Brooks Orpik of Amherst will join Miller on the ice, and Sabres VP of Public Relations Mike Gilbert will work PR for Team USA. All are acutely aware of the threats.

Nolan say,s "I talked with some of the players from Latvia, who are from there and grew up in that environment, and they're not bringing their families."

At the same time, he is confident that the Olympic village will be safe. As is Rick Orpik, who will be travelling to watch his son compete for gold. He says he was reassured by some friends from Russia.

"They're all you should just go and enjoy it, it's going to be great," Orpik said. "My country's made a big deal of this, they built this town from nothing. It's a beautiful place, just go and enjoy it. It's not going to be a problem there."

One thing that all of them said is that, in this day and age, the threat of terrorism is always present.

"We need to be aware when we're over there, but I think people in America need to be aware on a day-to-day basis," says Mike Gilbert.

Henril Tallinder added, " I know they'll do everything they can, but there's lunatics everywhere."

Orpik summed things up, "And who knows? God forbid something could happen at the Super Bowl, no one knows. If you give in, that's what the terrorists are looking for."

National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen told a Senate committee the big issue is not the Olympics themselves because the security is so intense there. The concern is about soft targets near Sochi, outside the security ring.

In the meantime, the athletes try to concentrate less on security and more on competition.


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