Above: Francis Silvaggio finds out how some athletes won’t be deterred by the Volgograd bombings.
VANCOUVER – The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) is assuring Canadian participants their safety is its “main priority” at the Sochi Olympics in the wake of two bombings in Russia.
Hours after a trolleybus explosion in Volgograd killed at least 14 people, COC said in a statement it “strives to ensure that athletes feel safe and secure at all times so 100 per cent of their attention is focused on their sport and achieving podium success.”
The Winter Games are set to open in the Black Sea city of Sochi, approximately 990* kilometres southwest of Volgograd, on Feb. 7.
Monday’s bombing and a deadly suicide bombing at Volgograd’s train station on Sunday raised concerns about the safety of people travelling to the games, especially because Volgograd is a key transport hub.
“The Canadian Olympic Committee works very closely with the RCMP, Sochi and Russian security agencies, medical and government partners in the months and years leading up to the Games to ensure the entire team remains safe throughout the Games,” said Monday’s statement.
The bombings aren’t worrying the players of Canada’s women’s hockey team, who were at practice in Toronto Monday ahead of an evening face-off with arch-rival Team USA.
“That kind of stuff can happen anywhere. So, we’re not really stressed out about it and we’re going there to win the gold,” said first-time team member Melodie Daoust.
The team’s longest-serving member, forward Hayley Wickenheiser, also said the focus is on the team’s performance. Based on her experience, she doesn’t believe security will be an issue.
Wickenheiser has won three gold medals and a silver medal in the four Olympics she has competed in with the Canadian women’s hockey team.
“At the end of the day it’s about the athletes and the competition that goes on,” she said. “If the athletes just focus on that and performing, then nobody can take away anything from the Games.”
Three-time gold medalist Caroline Ouellette said she has felt safe each time she has played on Olympic ice.
EXTENDED VIDEO: Women’s hockey players speak about safety at the Winter Games
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach also said Monday he had full confidence in Russia’s ability to host a “safe and secure” event, but called the attacks “despicable.”
“I have personally written to the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, to express our condolences to the Russian people and our confidence in the Russian authorities to deliver safe and secure Games in Sochi. I am certain that everything will be done to ensure the security of the athletes and all the participants of the Olympic Games,” he said.
“The Olympic Games are about bringing people from all backgrounds and beliefs together to overcome our differences in a peaceful way,” Bach said.
But Alberta biathlete Rosanna Crawford does have some reservations. She’s not necessarily worried about her own safety, but she did say she’s relieved her parents aren’t planning to make the trip.
“That would be a very big distraction – worrying about my parents all the time – so it’s nice to know they will be safe in Canmore cheering me on from the TV,” she told Global News while training at the Canmore Nordic Centre.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” says Crawford. “I think everything leading up to the Sochi Olympics has been very sad – with the gay rights movement and everything – I think there should’ve been a lot more thought look into it maybe before they were awarded the Olympics.”
WATCH: Olympic athlete says two recent bombings in Russia are adding to her doubts about Russia as an Olympic destination.
Russian security expert Aleksey Popov told Russia Today the attacks were an attempt to “spread fear ahead of the Winter Olympics.” But he said he believed the Games will be secure.
“I believe it won’t have any effect on the Olympics and the people who were planning to come will still do it. They are safe because almost $2 billion (USD) was allocated to security measures,” Popov said. “That’s even more than the sum for the London Olympics.”
The cost of security for the last Winter Games, held in Vancouver in 2010, reportedly reached nearly $1 billion.
WATCH: Do bombings threaten Russia’s ability to safeguard the Olympic Games?
In the wake of the Volgograd attacks, the regional government has announced a five-day period of mourning.
According to state-run news agency Ria Novosti, victims’ families will be paid 1 million rubles ($32,500 CAD) in compensation.
The families of those injured will also receive between 200,000 and 400,000 rubles (approximately $6,500 to $13,000 CAD), Ria Novosti reported.
Monday’s attack injured 28 people, including a six-month old child, while 40 people were hurt in the train station bombing less than 24 hours earlier.
Volgograd was previously hit with a similar attack. In October, six people were killed when a woman blew herself up on a bus in the city.
A city of about 1 million people, Volgograd is also slated to host World Cup soccer matches when Russia hosts the FIFA World Cup in 2018.
*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated Sochi is 650 kilometres from Volgograd. The distance between the two stories is approximately 990 kilometres