Outsider’s perspective (by Kevin Trudgeon): Is it worth the risk?

Posted: January 24, 2014

I had a roommate once who was the definition of an adrenaline junky.

From sky diving and wind surfing to owning both a motorcycle and a six-foot boa constrictor, if it involved any type of danger he was all about it.

He worked for a construction company that moved him around the country every 12 to 18 months, and his goal was to master a new “passion” with each location change.

Where most people focus on the risks and possible dire consequences of trying something as crazy as base jumping off a building or hang gliding off a cliff, my roommate only saw the rush of excitement that would come with each new activity.

But as much as he loved to push the limits and find new ways to get his heart pumping, I think I may have finally found something that even he would be too scared to try — attending the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Leap from an airplane at 10,000 feet? Sure.

Go bungee jumping off a bridge? Child’s play.

But willingly spend thousands of dollars to go watch a sporting event that seems to have a new terror threat with each passing day? I don’t think so.

This week alone security officials in Russia have been looking for three potential suicide bombers, one of whom was believed to be in Sochi, while a number of European Olympic offices received threats of terrorist activity should they choose to attend the upcoming Games.

I’m all for wanting a little excitement in my daily life, but I draw the line at knowingly walking into the equivalent of a ticking time bomb.

Think about it.

Any global event or gathering is going to come with its fair share of risks these days, and nothing can ever be deemed completely safe and secure, but has there ever been anything like the buildup to the Sochi Olympics?

From Russian President Vladimir Putin’s handling of the country’s anti-gay propaganda bill, to his sordid history on human rights, to back-to-back suicide bombings that killed 34 people not far from Sochi last month, its hard to rationalize attending an event that’s supposed to celebrate global unity through sport but seems destined to be remembered for some sort of tragedy.

So why would people go?

I’m not talking about the athletes themselves — they’ve trained their whole lives for this moment — or their friends and family, many of whom have been along for the ride for years and have invested their own sweat and tears into getting to this moment.

But for the casual curling fan or figure skating fanatic, what is the motivation to go to Sochi?

Forgetting the exorbitant costs for airfare and accommodations, not to mention the hassle of obtaining visas and spectator passes, the fact that some experts believe it’s less a question of if but when a security breach occurs should be reason enough to stay away from these Olympics.

It’s hard enough traveling to a foreign country without constantly wondering if the stadium you’re entering is wired with explosives or if the guy with the backpack seated next to you on the shuttle is carrying a bomb.

At this point you couldn’t pay me to attend these games.

But I’m not everyone. There are those out there who want so badly to see Shaun White hit the halfpipe or to watch the U.S. hockey team as it tries to knock Canada from its gold-medal perch that they will ignore the warning signs for the chance to see it all in person.

And to them I say good luck. Hopefully all of this chatter of terrorist plots and impending catastrophe ends up being a whole lot of nothing and the Games go off without a hitch.

But it seems like the question that should be asked for those planning on attending the Olympics in Sochi is a simple one.

Is it even worth the risk?

— Kevin Trudgeon is the sports editor at The Winchester Star