Hong Kong delegation on alert over terrorist threat for Sochi Games
Group unlikely to be a target but warned to be on guard at the Winter Olympics after intimidating global e-mail is received locally
The Hong Kong Olympic Committee played down a terrorist threat ahead of next month's Winter Olympics in Sochi but still warned its delegation members to be fully alert.
The committee confirmed at yesterday's flag presentation to the four-strong delegation that they had received an e-mail containing a threat, which appeared to have been sent to a number of countries.
"I don't believe there is any reason for Hong Kong to become a terrorist target," said chef de mission Ronnie Wong Man-chiu, who will be leading the sole representative - speed skater Barton Lui Pan-to.
"As far as we are concerned, many other countries have received the same e-mail, which has no source. The International Olympic Committee [IOC] has dismissed any real threat in it and suggested it appears to be a random message from a member of the public."
It was reported last week that many European Olympic committees, including Britain, Italy, Germany, Hungary and Slovenia, had received the same e-mail.
The British Olympic Association (BOA) said it had passed the e-mail to IOC security advisers and the IOC responded saying there was nothing of substance to it. The BOA also dismissed it.
Committee president and IOC member Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, who will attend meetings in Sochi and stay throughout the Games period, reassured the delegation of their security, saying the IOC and the local organising committee would do their best to protect all the participants.
"Security is a major concern of the IOC, especially as this is the first Games under new president Thomas Bach," said Fok. "Also, Russia are taking world-class sporting events seriously as a newly transformed nation. They are also the hosts of the 2018 World Cup [soccer] finals and I am sure they will do whatever they can to maintain a high level of security measures in Sochi."
It was reported the Russian authorities would deploy more than 40,000 people for security measures.
Wong said he had advised Lui and his coach to stay in the Olympic village and avoided going to public areas. If they have to go out for training, they have to take the village bus.
"Although we don't think Hong Kong is a terrorist target, we have to take some precautions to protect ourselves," he said. "I have been to many Games and it is important to be fully alert during a major competition."
A former swimmer, Wong represented Hong Kong at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games when some members of the Hong Kong delegation were held hostage by terrorists as they were in the same building as the Israeli team.
Lui admitted security problems would be a concern, but hoped it would not affect his performance. "I have spent the past three years preparing for the Sochi Games and it's not easy to win a ticket," he said.
"There is no proper speed-skating venue in Hong Kong and I have to train in South Korea and China as my preparation.
"I have to be very focused during the Sochi Games with the target of reaching the second round."
Hong Kong was represented by women's skater Han Yueshuang in the same event at the past two Winter Olympic Games, but she was eliminated after the first round on both occasions.