The Olympic games in Sochi, Russia are only a few weeks away, but the usual excitement doesn't seem to be there.
Sure, there was the constant coverage by a particular network with almost daily interviews with a certain female skier who can now no longer compete. Plus the occasional performance on an outdoor ice rink near that network's studio was usually entertaining.
However, in recent days that usual excitement in the buildup to the games has been replaced by concern over whether the Olympics will be safe.
Reported terrorist attacks have been happening in Russia on a regular basis, including a recent event in Sochi itself.
The political climate in Russia in recent years has been bad enough, but if there is the possibility of danger provided by individuals or groups from outside the country, then concern is justified and I'm sure if there was any way to back out now that option would be explored.
In the meantime, our nation is looking at what can be done to ensure the safety of the United States' athletes and other citizens traveling for the games.
Various precautions are being taken.
Military aircraft are being put on standby in Germany in the event any sudden evacuations are needed.
I can't remember of any Olympics where the military has been put on alert ahead of time.
Some athletes have even asked their families not to travel to Russia at all, out of concern for their safety.
Can you just imagine having these events take place with very few spectators in the stands to watch and cheer on the competitors?
On Friday, U.S. Olympic athletes were warned against wearing their national uniforms outside of the safe zone known as the "Circle of Steel." And, no, it's not just because of the way the uniforms look. (Sorry Ralph Lauren, but those things are hideous.) Officials are concerned because the uniforms make the athletes easily identifiable as Americans.
So, instead of looking forward to the performance of our athletes and wondering which country will bring home the highest number of medals, we are instead left hoping simply that our athletes, their families, friends and supporters make it home safe.
There weren't these concerns during the London games a couple of years ago, or in Vancouver or even Beijing.
We don't hear about these dangers despite all the dangers our world is experiencing. Usually, the sanctity of the Games is respected and the battles and attacks are kept in their regular areas. But this year isn't 2012 or 2010 or even 2000.
I don't know if other nations are taking similar precautions, but I don't think I could blame them.
The Olympics are supposed to be a time to put aside our differences and compete on the athletic field to showcase the abilities and pride of their people.
I know, of course, these are not the only Olympic games to have the shadow of fear put upon them, but it is not something this current generation of athletes have ever experienced.
But this isn't Iran. This isn't a divided Germany following World War II.
No, those were days where we knew where the trouble would come from. We knew who the enemies were and what they were capable of.
These days, danger can lurk around every corner and the bad guys are able to blend in with the crowds.
Their targets and reasonings are often unknown and not understood. They are not from any one country.
This is probably the darkest cloud to ever hang over an Olympic games. We can only hope nothing happens to make them memorable for the wrong reasons.
(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)