Olympic officials keep claiming that the Sochi games will be safe for everyone, but we’re a little skeptical. And so is the US State Department.
A new travel advisory warns about recent bombings, untested medical infrastructure, and of course the country’s notorious anti-gay laws. U.S. officials suggested that tourists might want to buy private medical evacuation insurance, which will pay to have you flown to medical facilities if you can’t get adequate treatment in the host city.
Remember, public safety is only the half of it. Visitors (or locals) who speak out on behalf on LGBT equality could get hit with a $3,100-ish fine, two weeks in jail, and eviction by the authoritarian regime.
Or they might not! Who knows? The laws are so ambiguous and official statements so vague, it’s hard to say. And that’s just for visitors; if you’re a gay Russian, you could get fired, kidnapped, or killed. Fun.
And then there are the bombings. There were three in the last few weeks, several hundred miles from Sochi. At least one religious organization has threatened to attack the games. “US citizens are urged to remain vigilant,” said the State Department, not particularly comforting words. There’s going to be lots of beefed-up security, but watchful eyes can’t be everywhere. And sometimes, the watchful eyes are the problem, such as when the police attack peaceful LGBT gatherings.
“The Olympics are a nonpolitical event,” one Russian official said, which is an absurd fantasy. There’s not a politician or activist alive who won’t use the Olympics to some political gain.
Simply calling something “nonpolitical” doesn’t make it so.