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Winter Olympics: Team GB ‘need security assurance’

Russian president Vladimir Putin tries out the Olympic ice rink. Picture: Retuers

Russian president Vladimir Putin tries out the Olympic ice rink. Picture: Retuers

  • by JANE BRADLEY
 

A former Scottish Olympian has warned that Russian authorities need to increase their assurances to athletes over security if Team GB is to take part in the upcoming Sochi Games.

Sprinter Allan Wells – who controversially took part, and won a gold medal, in the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games despite a mass boycott of the event – said that athletes needed to have a “completely clear mind” if they were to compete successfully in Russia and not be living under the shadow of potential attacks.

But Mr Wells, who met organisers of the Winter Olympics on a trip to Russia two years ago, said recent attacks in the region of Volgograd, 400 miles from the Winter Games venue in Sochi, which have left 31 people dead, could deter athletes and organising bodies from travelling to Russia next month.

His comments come after the man in charge of Team GB at next month’s Games, Mike Hay, said he could not confirm that the team will travel to Russia, amid fears over terrorism.

Mr Wells said: “I think they will need reassurance that the security is better for the British ­Olympic Association to make the decision to go.

“For the safety of the athletes, not just those from Britain, but from the world, you just can’t take the chance. It would be a disaster if something was to happen.

“At the moment, the assurances from the Russians are not 100 per cent – it is going to be a hard one to call.”

But he said he believed the Russian security forces would do everything they could to make sure the Games go ahead.

“We had a similar situation with the London Olympics, people were afraid that it would be a terror target, but the right measures were put in place and by the time the Games came around, it wasn’t a concern. But we have to wait and see over the next couple of weeks what happens.”

He added: “If athletes are going to go, then they have to have a clear mind in terms of what they are trying to achieve and they can’t have that thought in their mind that someone is going to blow them up.”

Mr Wells said he had met with the “Russian equivalent of Sebastian Coe” in Moscow two years ago to discuss the upcoming Games as part of a British delegation.

“He was very excited about it and was talking about the facilities that would be built; they were on a high,” Mr Wells said. “Then this [the attacks] all started happening. It will be a major thing for Russia if the attacks have an impact on the Games.”

Team GB’s chef de mission, Mr Hay, from Perth, said in an interview on Sunday that Team GB organisers were paying close ­attention to the security situation in Russia.

“We are constantly monitoring the situation,” he said. “We cannot say 100 per cent that we are definitely going to the Games because we need to make sure that everything is safe, but we are not contemplating that scenario at the moment.”

He added: “We will be seeking assurances that absolutely ­everything is being done. And everything we have seen from the Russians at this point would give us a lot of confidence.”

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