Austrian athletes get kidnap threats ahead of Sochi Olympics

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) listens to the head of the Sochi 2014 Olympic preparatory commission Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, left, listens to the head of the Sochi 2014 Olympic preparatory commission Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak.
Credit: Getty Images

Two Austrian competitors have received kidnap threats on the eve of the Sochi Winter Olympics, heightening security concerns at the Games and triggering an investigation by counterterrorism experts.

It was not known who is responsible for the threats, made in a letter to the Austrian national Olympic Committee, although Islamist militants have warned of attacks to undermine President Vladimir Putin’s hopes of using the Games to show Russia is a safe, modern state.

Sources close to the Austrian Olympic team identified the competitors as Alpine skier Bernadette Schild and skeleton racer Janine Flock, the current European champion. Austrian media had earlier said it was Schild’s sister, former world champion Marlies, who had been threatened.

Specialists were checking whether the threat should be taken seriously. Threatening letters sent last month to delegations in several countries, including the United States, were deemed by the International Olympic Committee to pose no danger.

“We informed the minister of internal affairs and Austria’s police. … There is no actual threat at the moment,” Peter Mennel, general secretary of Austria’s Olympic Committee, told reporters at Sochi’s Adler airport.

“We have two security people here, and if the threat is confirmed we will give additional security to the athletes,” he said after flying in with the Austrian team, including one of the competitors who had been threatened.

He declined to name them but said he had spoken to one of the pair by phone and the other in person. He said one of the two told him: “I’m not afraid and I know we’re in good hands.

A spokesman for the Austrian Interior Ministry confirmed the national counterterrorism agency had been brought in to look at the origin and content of the letter.

“We have taken all precautionary measures. The people affected have been informed and the Russian authorities are aware,” he said.

No other national Olympic committee reported receiving such letters this week.

High stakes for Putin

Putin has staked his political and personal prestige on the Sochi Games, intended to show how far Russia has come since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. A bombing, suicide attack or hostage crisis would seriously threaten those ambitions.

Doku Umarov, one of the leaders of an insurgency for an Islamist state in the North Caucasus, urged followers last year to attack Sochi, which lies on the Black Sea at the western edge of the mountains where the insurgency is focused.

Russia has responded by building a “ring of steel” around the Black Sea resort and has about 37,000 security personal on high alert in and around the city.

Security concerns grew after suicide bombers killed at least 34 people in the southern Russian city of Volgograd in late December, and police have been hunting four “Black Widows”, women they fear may be planning more suicide bombings.

Russian and IOC officials say they are confident that the about 6,000 athletes and several hundred thousand spectators at the Games will be safe.

“Every big event nowadays is under threat,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in Sochi on Monday. “We have to address this. The alternative would be to surrender to terrorists.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.