Hoax threats before games play on Sochi security fears

Wed Jan 22, 2014 1:37pm EST
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By Marton Dunai

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - At least five European countries' Olympic committees and the United States received letters in Russian on Wednesday making a "terrorist threat" before the Sochi Games, but Olympic chiefs said they posed no danger.

Despite the assurances, the letters to committees in Italy, Hungary, Germany, Slovenia and Slovakia briefly caused alarm and underlined nervousness about security at the $50 billion event on which Russian President Vladimir Putin's legacy may depend.

The U.S. Olympic Committee later confirmed that it also received a letter by email.

Suicide bombers killed at least 34 people in a city in southern Russia last month, Islamist militants have threatened to attack the Winter Games and security forces are hunting a woman suspected of planning a suicide bombing and of being in Sochi already.

"I am very pleased to inform everyone that both the IOC and the Sochi organizing committee ... declared after the analysis of the letter that this threat is not real," Zsigmond Nagy, director of international relations at the Hungarian Olympic Committee, told Reuters.

He said "this person has been sending all kinds of messages to many members of the Olympic family."

The letter, he said, threatened Hungarian nationals, competitors and officials, saying that "persons attending the Olympic Games might be blown up."

Nagy also quoted IOC officials saying the letters had been sent by someone living outside Russia who had carried out such hoaxes before, but did not identify the person. He said there was "nothing to worry about."   Continued...

Russian Cossacks patrol the Adler district of Sochi January 22, 2014. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk