Klee: These Olympics measured by security, not silver and gold

By: Paul Klee
February 4, 2014 Updated: February 4, 2014 at 10:02 pm
photo - Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny (26) waits for a face-off against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny (26) waits for a face-off against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) 

DENVER - Maybe it was the Super Bowl. Maybe it was the NBA, NHL or the moving and shaking of the MLB offseason.

Maybe it was media being clueless, operating on an agenda or living in our bubble. Maybe it's the masses choosing to ignore what makes it uncomfortable.

Somehow, the most important story in sports - a story of life or death - slipped under the American radar like it wasn't there. There are bombs going off, dozens of people have died, and Islamic terrorists have sworn to inflict more grisly violence.

It's happening in Russia, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics that open Feb. 6. Sochi is the new Ground Zero. Did anyone notice?

"You can't help but see what's going on. You notice," Colorado Avalanche forward Paul Stastny said in the locker room at Pepsi Center.

How could they not?

The Avs are sending four players to Sochi: Stastny, with the U.S.; Matt Duchene, with Canada; Semyon Varlamov, with Russia; and Gabriel Landeskog, with Sweden.

Send them home safe, Russia. Send all of our athletes home safe.

I don't believe the U.S. should be participating in the Sochi Olympics. I expect bad things will happen. Bad, merciless, evil things already have happened.

Roughly 40 people have been killed in attacks in Russia since October. Muslim terrorist groups claimed responsibility.

Do we think it gets safer when the West arrives to celebrate on a piece of the world they say is their own? Hosting a party for sports is hardly a sign of international solidarity.

It's a sign of stupidity.

This is a tough spot for the athletes who will represent their countries on a grand stage. Plenty are worried about the dangers of competing in Sochi. How could they not be?

"This is different. This is a different part of the world, probably a little more dangerous than other parts, considering the area where it is," Stastny said. "It does scare a few people. But you trust the security. (Russian president Vladimir) Putin seems like a pretty straight-arrow guy. He's not going to let anyone mess with his Olympics. I think if someone does get out of hand, he'll take care of it as soon as possible."

Stastny is in his second Olympics. He played for the U.S. squad that won silver at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

Varlamov is in his first Olympics for Russia. Landeskog is an Olympics rookie with Sweden. Duchene is making his Olympics debut for Canada. At 28, Stastny is the old man of the bunch. Varly, Duchene and Landy are 25 or younger. They are the core of a gifted Avs roster inching closer to winning a Stanley Cup than people believe.

"I'm still so honored to be representing my country," Duchene said.

This is a difficult issue that yanks on their heartstrings and, more important, a man's love for country. And it's different in hockey. The NHL locker room is a multicultural space where national roots grow deep. NBA stars have rejected Olympic invitations in favor of resting for the season. Hockey players leap at the chance, like a puck off their stick.

"We're just counting on it to be a good experience and to be secure," Duchene said. "I haven't paid too much attention to it, honestly. You hope it works out and it's a positive experience for everybody."

The beauty of hockey players lies not in their missing teeth or messy mops. It's in the sincerity of their game. The puck doesn't lie. Their own honesty is equally refreshing.

So I asked Stastny if the Islamic terrorist attacks in Russia made him hesitant to attend the Games and compete for the U.S. He didn't blink.

"No," he said. "If you asked anyone growing up, if you play in the Olympics for your country, there might be a security alert. But this is something you dream about.

"The minute you can represent your country, any concerns about security go out of the window."


Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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