The State Department and the U.S. Olympic Committee both think it's a good idea for U.S. athletes not to tout their Team USA colors too widely during next week's Sochi games because of terror threats.
But neither side wants to be responsible for making that recommendation.
“The U.S. Department of State has advised that wearing conspicuous Team USA clothing in non-accredited areas may put your personal safety at greater risk,” the U.S. Olympic Committee told its athletes in a memo obtained by The Wall Street Journal.
The Obama administration, however, said the Team USA advisory was the Olympic Committee's decision — one they happen to agree with.
“That advice was actually given by the security coordinator for the U.S. Olympic team,” an administration official said on a background call with reporters Friday afternoon. “I think it reflects just good common sense if in fact there are credible threats of terrorism.”
The official went on to say that experts agree “soft targets” outside the official venues are more likely to be targeted by potential terrorists.
"I think it makes sense to give people some advice in terms of how to handle themselves when they're traveling," the official said. "And I think it's just common sense that perhaps if you're an American Olympic athlete, perhaps you don't want to advertise that so much ... far outside the Olympic venues."
At issue is an athlete-specific advisory from the State Department. The advisory only recommended that athletes be “careful of their surroundings,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told the Olympic trade publication aroundtherings.
“This isn’t unique to Russia,” Harf was quoted as saying. “We give this guidance around international events.”
Still, the committee may have received additional guidance during its many conversations with administration officials in the lead-up to games that have already been marred by two suicide bombings last month. And Russian police said this week they're worried that the widows of slain insurgents from the Caucasus plan to bomb the games.
In any event, the US Olympic Committee is happy to go along with the advice — wherever it originated.
“The safety and security of Team USA is our top priority,” USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement. “As is always the case, we are working with the U.S. Department of State, the local organizers and the relevant law enforcement agencies in an effort to ensure that our delegation and other Americans traveling to Sochi are safe.“
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