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Obama says he believes Sochi is safe, Americans should go if they wish

Philippines' Michael Christian Martinez skates during the figure skating training session at the Iceberg Skating Palace at the Sochi 2014 Wi
Philippines' Michael Christian Martinez skates during the figure skating training session at the Iceberg Skating Palace at the Sochi 2014 Wi

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said in an interview broadcast on Friday that he believes the Russian city of Sochi is safe and that Americans who want to go to the Olympics should go.

Amid questions about whether Russian security is sufficient to head off the threat of militant attacks in Sochi, Obama told CNN in an interview that the Russians understand the stakes involved in playing host to the international event.

Asked what he would tell close friends who wanted to go to the Olympics, Obama said: "I'd tell them that I believe that Sochi is safe and that there are always some risks in these large international gatherings."

But Obama said he would always feel better if the event were being held inside the United States "because then we have full control over what happens."

U.S. officials have expressed concerns about the level of cooperation with Russian security officials. Obama said the United States has a good sense of the security plan Russia has put in place to protect the athletes and spectators.

"The Russian authorities understand the stakes here. They understand that there are potential threats that are out there. And we are coordinating with them. We've looked at their plans," he said.

Obama said U.S. officials are not discouraging Americans from attending the Winter Games. Those who wish to go should check with the State Department and see what "prudent measures" they should take.

"What I would say is that if you want to go to the Olympics, you should go to the Olympics," he said.

"In these large settings like this, there are always some risk involved," he added.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Eric Beech)

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