Australian Winter Olympic gold medal prospect Torah Bright says she’ll pull out of February’s Games in Sochi if Russia’s apparent terrorism problems worsen.
Two attacks have rocked Russia less than six weeks out from the Games, a bombing of a trolley bus in Volgograd coming a day after a bomb was exploded at the city’s railroad station.
Thirty-one people have been confirmed dead with dozens more injured.
Bright, who won the halfpipe event at the Vancouver Olympics four years ago and hopes to qualify for three different snowboard disciplines in Sochi, believes going to Russia may not be a gamble worth taking.
“If the political position gets any worse I sure as hell won’t be risking my safety just for an Olympic Games,” Bright told AAP from her base in Salt Lake City.
Bright admitted she needed to learn more about what was going on in Russia before making any final decision but also seemed to take umbrage at the overall excesses of a Games where it is estimated more than $50 billion has already been spent in preparations.
“The Olympics sometimes and other sporting events kind of make me sick with how much money is spent on them because the world doesn’t need to be without clean water or food and in poverty ” she said.
Bright witnessed first-hand the heavy security presence at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, where her sister Rowena competed in alpine skiing, less than five months after the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York.
But, having spent time in Sochi earlier this year, she felt Russia was still “a different world” in comparison.
“I’m not too worried but if it comes down to countries saying ‘go at your own risk’, I would make a decision that would keep me safe,” she said.
“As far as now I think it would be ok but I guess we’ll see when the time comes.”
Other Australian athletes such as aerial skier Lydia Lassila and David Morris seemed less concerned, saying they would be heading to Sochi at this stage.
While no-one has claimed responsibility for the bombings, initial reports from Russia suggest they are related to a long-running Islamist insurgency in the Chechnya region, about 800km east of Sochi.
In July a Chechen insurgent leader posted a video urging militants to use “maximum force” to prevent the Games from going ahead.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said authorities would work with their Russian counterparts and Australian officials in Russia to assess the situation before passing down any government advice on participating.
The Australian Olympic Committee issued a statement on Tuesday saying it was “certain that everything will be done to ensure the security of the athletes and all of the participants of the Olympic Games.
“We will continue to work closely with DFAT whose representatives have attended our Sochi planning meetings,” the statement continued.
“We will impress on our athletes DFAT’s advice that they exercise a high degree of caution in Russia because of the threat of terrorist activity.”