Sochi unrest poses safety questions

For the six Olympic interns heading to Sochi, Russia, the National Broadcast Company (NBC) and Bradley have taken measures to ensure their safety while overseas.

December suicide bomber attacks in Volgograd, rumors of security threats and a global manhunt for “black widow” terrorists have led up to this year’s Winter Games, sparking some uneasiness in the States.

Department of Communications Chair Paul Gullifor said the Bradley interns are still willing to make the journey to Sochi, and he’s supportive of their choice.

“I’m comfortable [letting the interns go] because the students and their parents are comfortable,” he said. “In this day and age you have to be aware that any event that attracts a large audience has this risk.”

Gullifor said he talked to students about the risks of going abroad and that he would help students step away from the internship if they were uneasy.

“We let the choice be up to them,” he said. “Our students are adults, as are their parents, and we impressed upon them that if they weren’t comfortable they could back out, they wouldn’t be obligated to me, Bradley or NBC. We asked if they wanted to withdraw, and none wanted to back out.”

NBC has reacted to the threats by hiring a private security firm, Gullifor said. This company is also working with the United States government, the Department of the State and the Russian government, and has amped up security in the weeks leading up to the games.

“I’m proud of [the interns],” Gullifor said. “They’re not going to yield to terrorists. I think their generation has grown up with not a lot of privacy and security, and it’s just unfortunate that that’s the world we live in.”

Gullifor referenced the 1996 Olympics bombing in Atlanta and threats in London before the 2012 Summer Games, in which three Bradley students interned.  He said the Sochi interns know these incidents and the possibility of threats, but it isn’t stopping them.

“The reality is you can do something like this, or you can stay in your house the rest of your life,” Gullifor said. “I don’t think the students wanted to do that.”

For all 18 interns heading to both Sochi and NBC headquarters in Connecticut, Gullifor said the work of the students who interned during the 2012 Summer Games made this possible.

“It shows our students can compete with the best,” he said. “I’m really proud of them. They went through quite a process, they did everything we asked them and they never complained. It’s nice to see them reap the benefits of their efforts.”