U.S. State Department warns Americans — especially gays — about Sochi Games

Olivier Knox, Yahoo News
Yahoo News
People walk past a banner near venues in the Olympic Park in Adler near Sochi,
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People walk past a banner near venues in the Olympic Park in Adler near Sochi, December 31, 2013. President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday vowed to annihilate "terrorists" following two deadly bomb attacks in less than 24 hours in the southern Russian city of Volgograd that raised security fears ahead of the Winter Olympics. (REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)

The State Department on Friday cautioned Americans looking to travel to the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, that the competition may be an “attractive target” for terrorists – and issued a special warning for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travelers.

In a document titled “Travel Alert: Russia,” the department noted Russia had passed a law banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to minors, including promoting equal rights for the LGBT community.

Any Americans convicted of breaking that law might face fines of up to $3,100, up to 14 days in jail and deportation, said the department, which referred LGBT travelers to a special website.

That site notes, “Attitudes and tolerance toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons vary from country to country, just as they vary among U.S. cities and states” — and that in some places, gays might even be sentenced to death. “Before choosing one’s international destination, LGBT travelers should carefully consider the laws and biases of their international destination and decide how open one can be regarding one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Overall, Americans looking to attend the games “should remain attentive regarding their personal security at all times,” avoid large demonstrations in areas lacking “enhanced security measures” and be aware that extremists might target the competition.

“There is no indication of a specific threat to U.S. institutions or citizens, but U.S. citizens should be aware of their personal surroundings and follow good security practices,” the department said. “U.S. citizens are urged to remain vigilant and exercise good judgment and discretion when using any form of public transportation.”

What if you get sick? Well, the department says diplomatically, the area’s medical infrastructure is “untested” when it comes to handling a large influx of people.

“Medical care in many Russian localities differs substantially from Western standards due to differing practices and approaches to primary care,” it says. “Travelers should consider purchasing private medical evacuation and/or repatriation insurance.”

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