Many Americans are staying away from Sochi Olympics

7:25 AM, Jan 20, 2014   |    comments
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Due to security fears, some 40,000 police and soldiers have been dispatched to the region. CBS NEWS

 


 


(CBSNews.com) - A video surfaced Sunday in Russia, raising even more security worries about theupcoming Olympics in Sochi.

In it, two men threaten to kill those who attend the Winter Games in retaliation, they claim, for the deaths of Muslims killed around the world.  The video was shot six months ago but just released by the media arm of the self-styled Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus.

Those security concerns are putting a dent in Olympic ticket sales. There are multiple reasons why many Americans are staying away from the Games.

To the relief of the Olympic host nation, snow finally arrived in Sochi for the first time this winter. But come the opening ceremonies, will the spectators?

Travel agents are seeing a steep decline in bookings over past Olympics. One agent told CBS News she has fewer than 50 clients going to Sochi. In comparison, she booked 250 for the Vancouver Winter Olympics and 350 for Beijing.

Another sign of disinterest: Tickets to events are still available. Normally, they sell out months ahead of time. 

Safety is the main concern. In light of recent terrorist bombings 600 miles away in Volgograd and threats by a terrorist leader to attack the Games, 40,000 police and soldiers have been dispatched to the region.

 

Maine Sen. Angus King says the danger is real.

"I would not go. And I don't think I would send my family," King said on CNN. "I don't know how you put a percentage on it, but it's just such a rich target in an area of the world that has -- you know, they've almost broadcast that they're going to try to do something there."

Sochi is also very difficult to get to. It's located on the Black Sea at the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains. Travel there requires multiple connections. The trip can take more than 30 hours and cost thousands of dollars.

Then there's the question of hotel rooms: Booking one is almost impossible because many are still being built.

Russia's new anti-gay laws are also causing concern. Russian President Vladimir Putin promised no one will be discriminated against. But the U.S. State Department warned Americans not to make any public statements there in support of homosexuality.

"Sochi is going to raise questions for the International Olympic Committee going forward in terms of its bid process and to which cities, countries it selects to host the Games in part because of all the concerns we've discussed, but also because the bid process in terms of how much its costing from bid to actually putting these Games on," said professor Lee Igel, co-director of New York University's sports and society program.

With a $50 billion price tag, the Sochi Games will be the most expensive in history.

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