There is a nervous undercurrent beneath our excited preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. In the wake of an Islamic militant group's threat to disrupt the event, athlete delegations from all over the world are beefing up security and spectators are beginning to wonder whether it will be safe to attend. Underscoring those concerns, this week, Congressman Peter King, who chairs the House Intelligence subcommittee, declared that the athletes' safety could not be 100-percent guaranteed.
But let's take a deep breath and remember our own Olympic fears.
In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and Salt Lake City's opening ceremonies less than five months away, there were plenty who believed it was too dangerous to host such a high-profile global event. With images of the smoldering Twin Towers still jolting us awake at night, we'll admit, ensuring the Games would be safe seemed impossible.
But, whether it was the sheer momentum of hosting an event decades in the making or blind faith, Utah carried on.
Public safety agencies across the country offered their support and, in an act of global defiance against terrorism, athletes from around the world boarded planes bound for Salt Lake City. As a result, the 2002 Winter Olympic Games went forward and will be remembered as the year the world was reunited in peace.
With that in mind, we would encourage America's athletes and their fans to be mindful of their security, but not afraid to participate. If ever the world needed a model for coexistence, now is the time and Sochi is the place.
Those who waited in long security lines at the Olympic venues in 2002 will remember the tender sympathies offered to us by foreign visitors and the deep respect accorded to public safety workers in gratitude for their service. Yes, there were spectacular athletic achievements, but as important was the sense of being part of a global village.
Are we concerned about our athletes' safety in Sochi? Yes. But we still believe that the Olympic tradition of convening people from diverse cultures in order to celebrate each others' remarkable achievements is the best antidote to terrorism we can imagine.