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Latest Sochi threat treated as hoax

ap - This photo taken on Friday Jan. 17, 2014, shows two toilets at the cross-country skiing and biathlon center for next month’s Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Although two toilets and only one stall like this are not common in Russia, social media users have responded by posting other pictures of toilets standing side by side. One said this was standard at Russian soccer stadiums. (AP Photo/Steve Rosenberg, BBC)
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>ap</em></div>This photo taken on Friday Jan. 17, 2014, shows two toilets at the cross-country skiing and biathlon center for next month’s Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Although two toilets and only one stall like this are not common in Russia, social media users have responded by posting other pictures of toilets standing side by side. One said this was standard at Russian soccer stadiums. (AP Photo/Steve Rosenberg, BBC)
AP - A photo of a police leaflet seen in a Sochi hotel on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, shows Ruzanna Ibragimova and states that she is at large in the city of Sochi. Russian security officials are hunting down three potential female suicide bombers, one of whom is believed to be in Sochi, where the Winter Olympics will begin next month. Police leaflets seen by an Associated Press reporter at a central Sochi hotel on Tuesday contain warnings about three potential suicide bombers. Police said that Ruzanna Ibragimova, depicted in a mug shot wearing a pink hijab, was at large in Sochi. (AP Photo/Natalya Vasilyeva)
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>A photo of a police leaflet seen in a Sochi hotel on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, shows Ruzanna Ibragimova and states that she is at large in the city of Sochi. Russian security officials are hunting down three potential female suicide bombers, one of whom is believed to be in Sochi, where the Winter Olympics will begin next month. Police leaflets seen by an Associated Press reporter at a central Sochi hotel on Tuesday contain warnings about three potential suicide bombers. Police said that Ruzanna Ibragimova, depicted in a mug shot wearing a pink hijab, was at large in Sochi. (AP Photo/Natalya Vasilyeva)

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By The Associated Press
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 10:12 p.m.
 

BUDAPEST — Threats to a string of European Olympic offices are reviving a question that has haunted preparations for the Winter Games next month: Is it safe to go to Sochi?

European Olympic authorities, whose countries have faced terrorist threats and attacks in the past, largely shrugged off the new menacing messages as a hoax, a marginal phenomenon that security experts say is common ahead of big events.

Some members of Congress aren't so sure. They say Russia isn't doing enough to assure that athletes will be protected at the Feb. 7-23 games, happening not far from an Islamic insurgency that Russia's huge security apparatus has struggled for two decades to quell.

Russia may run greater risks in towns outside the tightly controlled Olympic zone. Suicide bombs last month a few hundred miles away have increased concerns, and an Islamic warlord has urged his followers to attack the Sochi Olympics, Russian President Vladimir Putin's pet project.

The threats reported Wednesday appeared to be more anodyne.

They were first revealed by Hungarian sports officials, who announced they had received an email in Russian and English threatening Hungarian athletes with terrorist attacks.

The International Olympic Committee insisted it takes credible threats seriously, but “in this case it seems like the email sent to the Hungarian Olympic Committee contains no threat and appears to be a random message from a member of the public.”

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said he remains confident in Russia's Olympic organizers.

Talking to reporters in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday, he said: “Security is always a matter of concern, not only in the Olympic Games but at every big event, whether it's sport or any other. That is unfortunately the world we are living in.

“But we are very confident and we know the Russian authorities together with their many partners internationally are doing everything to organize the games in a safe and secure way.”

The Hungarian Olympic Committee said it had received a message from the organizers of the Sochi Games saying: “Threat described in the email sent to your address is not real.”

It turned out that Olympic committees from several other European countries, including Britain, Germany, Italy and Austria, had received similar messages but hadn't publicly reported them.

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