One of the charms of the Olympics is seeing and hearing the family members of the athletes cheering from the seats and waving the national flags after traveling halfway around the world to get there.
Concerns about safety in Sochi have prompted some U.S. Olympians to tell their loved ones to stay home, however. Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, who will skate for Team USA in February, is one of them.
He said Wednesday that his wife and two young children won’t be traveling to Russia for the Winter Games. The long trip is part of the reason, but recent news about terror threats made the decision “a little bit easier.”
Suter said he’s confident in USA Hockey and International Olympic Committee officials to keep the event safe, but anxiety is human nature.
“You hear all these stories about different things, and it’s definitely a concern,” Suter said. “But at the same time, I feel that the U.S. government and the Russian government is going to do everything in their power to protect us.”
Members of U.S. Congress have expressed serious concerns about the safety of Americans in Sochi and frustration with Russian cooperation. The U.S. State Department has advised Americans at the Olympics to stay vigilant about security because of not only potential terrorist threats but crime and uncertain medical care.
“I think it’s more for people that are going to be outside of the Olympic park,” Suter said. “I feel like the athletes are going to be safe and taken care of. You just don’t know when you get outside there.”
In Beijing at the Summer Olympics in 2008, the father of former Team USA volleyball player Elisabeth Bachman was stabbed to death in a random attack at a local landmark.
Speedskater Tucker Fredricks has asked his family to stay home in Wisconsin next month because of security concerns. His parents traveled to Turin in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010 to watch him, but they’ll rely on television this time so their son can focus on the competition and not worry about their well-being.
And Suter’s friend and Wild forward Zach Parise, who will also play for the U.S. team, advised his parents and relatives not to come. His wife recently gave birth to twins, so travel for them was already impractical. But his supporters who went to Vancouver in 2010 won’t be in attendance this time.
“It’s nerve-wracking, that’s for sure. I guess there’s no way around it,” Parise said, adding: “I watch the news. I see that stuff going on. It’s not very comforting.”
For other countries, too: Vancouver Canucks teammates Roberto Luongo (Canada) and Daniel Sedin (Sweden) each said safety is the reason their families won’t be traveling to Russia.
Not everyone has been deterred, though.
Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane‘s parents traveled to Vancouver in 2010 to cheer for him and Team USA. He said Wednesday that his mother, a sister and his girlfriend are planning to come to Russia, despite the safety concerns.
“They understand what’s going on,” Kane said. “It’s their choice to go over there, and they wanted to. I’ll take the support for sure.”
Kane said he’s not worried about security in Sochi.
“You hear different things about it, so obviously you’re going to think about it,” he said. “But at the end of the day, what can we really do about it? It’s not our job to worry about that stuff. If something happens, it’s completely out of our control. If you’re worrying about that, then your head’s in the wrong place. I think we have to be worried about going over going there and playing well as a country and a team and enjoying your time over there, too.”
The same goes for Kane’s teammate, Jonathan Toews, a member of Team Canada. Toews said his parents and girlfriend will be in Sochi, despite “that thought in their head” about the danger.
“Everyone is doing everything they can to make sure there are no dangerous situations. I think our families will be pretty close to where we are in the village so that’ll be a little comfort,” Toews said. “We just have to enjoy it and be confident everything will be all right.”
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