Two locals eyeing Olympics, undaunted by bombings in Russia

Posted at: 12/30/2013 7:35 PM
By: Steve Flamisch

SCHENECTADY – Back-to-back suicide bombings in Russia are raising new security concerns ahead of the Winter Olympic Games, but they are not deterring two local residents who plan to be in Sochi for the Opening Ceremony in February.

Ken DeLong, the recreation coordinator for the Northeast Parent and Child Society in Schenectady, also serves as an official for the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation. He is scheduled to serve as a jury assistant for Olympic skeleton events.

"There's always a concern," DeLong, of Gloversville, told NewsChannel 13. "But it's the dream I've had -- and a lot of individuals involved have had -- for years. The (bombings are) not going to deter that in any way whatsoever."

The attacks happened in Volgograd, about 400 miles from Sochi. A suicide bomber killed 17 people at a train station Sunday, authorities said. Another suicide bomber killed 14 people aboard a bus Monday. Dozens more were wounded in the attacks.

Investigators believe the blasts were orchestrated by Doku Umarov, a Chechen separatist leader who recently appealed to his followers to kill civilians and disrupt the Olympics, NBC News reported. By late Monday, neither Umarov nor anyone else had claimed responsibility.

Jackie Hernandez, an Olympic hopeful originally from Londonderry, Vt., northeast of Bennington, told NewsChannel 13 that it "definitely is concerning" to learn of the threat and the recent attacks. Hernandez is vying to make the U.S. snowboard cross team.

"It’s scary to think about, so I try not to think about it," Hernandez said by phone Monday. "It is in the back of my mind, but until the time comes, I’ll try not to worry about it… From what I’ve heard, the security at the Olympics is going to be insane."

Heightened security would come as a familiar sight to DeLong, the skeleton official from Gloversville. He volunteered at the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Ut. in 2002, just a few months after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

"It was a lot more security and police presence than maybe we would have liked, but we knew that we were safe," DeLong said. "We were excited just to be there, and once we got involved, we didn't even think about the dangers anymore."