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Terrorism and gay hate are no way to sell tickets for Sochi

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According to The Boston Herald, the Winter Olympics — taking place in Sochi, Russia this February — might play to non-existent crowds. With less than three weeks to the event, which NBC paid $775 million to air, “…hundreds of thousands of tickets remain unsold, raising the prospect of empty seats and a lack of atmosphere at Russia’s first Winter Olympics.”

Is anyone surprised?

Russia has bungled the PR aspects of the games, and the security also seems suspect. Suspect is too kind, actually. One must question openly whether Olympic athletes from the United States — or from anywhere! — will be safe.

As if from a James Bond film, there is concern of the Black Widows – “women whose jihadist husbands have died in the fight between the Muslims of the North Caucasus and Russia — who might be planning suicide bomb attacks.”

And then there are the actual attacks, like in Volgograd, where 34 people were killed. An Islamist militant group claimed responsibility, and said that more blood would be shed….in Sochi:

If you hold the Olympics, you’ll get a present from us for all the Muslim blood that’s been spilled.

On ABC’s This Week, Putin said he would do “whatever it takes” to keep people safe at the games, yet the State Department has warned people going to the games to be aware of their surroundings, and to be vigilant against terrorist threats. That’s just the kind of talk that gets people beating down the doors to buy tickets.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, for all his tough talk and shirtless photos, can’t get a handle on providing security, or even the illusion of security. The United States has warships at the ready, “…under a contingency plan to help evacuate American officials and athletes from the Winter Olympics in Sochi.”

On the PR front, Putin and the games are in just as bad of shape. His comments about gays in the Olympics — that they should, “…feel calm and at ease,” he said, “just leave kids alone, please” — was taken, well, poorly in the U.S. Russia has been on an anti-gay tear under Putin:

Russia passed a law last year prohibiting “propaganda of nontraditional sexual practices” among ­minors. The law has been used to ban gay rights parades — children might see them — and to curb discussion of gay issues on television and in newspapers for fear that those younger than 18 might hear or read about homosexuality. Teachers ignore the subject, isolating gay teenagers. Some homophobes have interpreted the law as encouragement to beat up gays. And there has been talk of taking children away from gay parents.

Putin has been in damage control ever since. In a conversation with the BBC, Putin stated, “I don’t care about a person’s orientation,” he told the BBC. “I myself know some people who are gay. We’re on friendly terms. I’m not prejudiced in any way.”

Translation: some of my best friends are black gay.

The Olympics this year have all the markings of a first class train wreck. Unfortunately, they could be even worse. That’s no reason to stop the games. No reason to run from the games. We don’t kowtow to terrorists or terrorism. However, we’re not talking about America, we’re talking about Russia.

An attack on people’s sexual orientation – -coupled with the very real possibility of an actual attack on people’s lives — is no way to sell tickets. True, Russia is to blame for the debacle. But blame the IOC for choosing such a poor location in the guise of “fairness.”

And, blame the terrorists for their sick, twisted, murderous ideology that forces all decent nations to be on the ever constant guard.

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Tony Katz is a writer, radio host and entertainer. Follow him on Twitter @tonykatz.

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