As we're weeks away from this year's Olympic games, it looks like Sochi will see the least amount of American spectators visiting an Olympic games in the last 20 years. US tour operators blame poor reception on several factors: terrorism fears, lack of hostels and resorts, and the difficulty of obtaining a travel visa to Russia. Now, there's even been a travel alert issued, after two suicide bombings in nearby Volgograd killed 30 people.
It's been reported that Russia, who was expecting to do well with ticket sales, still has 30% of tickets unsold for the games. (The last Winter Olympics, held in Vancouver, sold 97% of their tickets.) Despite Putin's promise that the games will be safe, along with thousands of police and security patrolling the area, the threats against the games feel very real and possible to many spectators.
''It doesn't take an expert to look at that region and say the Olympics will be such a large target that insurgents will not try to do something,'' says a security analyst for NBC. ''There has been an average of 10 to 15 attacks in North Caucasus every month in recent years. It's just now the press is paying more attention to it.''
Lt. Col. Robert Schaefer, a who wrote on the conflict happening in the North Caucasus, says the biggest concern should be in the construction workers: "many of them foreigners, they could have taken bribes to look the other way while explosives were buried or caches of weapons stored in the frenzied buildup of facilities over the last few years."
The games were decided to be held in Sochi back in 2007, when a personal appearance by Putin, selling his scenic snowy mountains and resort town by the Black Lake, convinced the committee on the location over South Korea and Austria. Now it seems up to Putin onto hold that promise. Schaefer also says that this is Putin's chance to show that's he's the president that can tame the rebellion. 'What could sell the world more than anything else is he's the guy who finally did what all Russian Czars couldn't - he tamed the Caucasus,'' Schaefer says. ''You have a large Olympics and you pull it off without incident, then you demonstrate to everybody that you've beaten them.''
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