Olympics Not All Fun and Games

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Not All Fun and Games

Security Measures for 2002 Winter Olympics Costly, Complicated

By Bill Redeker

P A R K C I T Y, Utah, Oct. 31 Even with 100 days to go, Secret Service officers are already inspecting the 11 Winter Olympic venues while Salt Lake City teachers are calling for schools to be closed during the Games. While the Olympic spirit may be alive and well, security concerns have consumed organizers and become the No. 1 priority. "There is no backup plan for delay or anything," Salt Lake City organizer Mitt Romney said today. "The Games will happen and they'll begin on Feb. 8, 2002."

Making that happen, in the shadow of terrorism and war, is both costly and complicated.

The federal government recently increased the budget for security to about $300 million. About 7,000 federal, state, and military personnel will patrol the games. The Salt Lake City International Airport will be closed during the opening and closing ceremonies and airspace above the venues will be restricted.

No Signs of Panic

And there are other measures:

Metal detectors will be installed around Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City. The plaza is home to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The church is expecting large crowds to visit the home of the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Radiation checks will be made by aircraft to look for any signs of nuclear terrorism. Hundreds of surveillance cameras will ring the Olympic Village, which will house the 2,600 international athletes. Mail delivery for Olympic participants will be closely supervised if not suspended altogether. Still there is no sign of panic. No teams have pulled out, no sponsors have cancelled, and organizers say fewer than 20 people have asked for ticket refunds.

"We're ready to go and we're going to keep being ready to go until we're told otherwise," said a merchant on Main Street in Park City. "In times like this, I can think of no greater reason to bring the world together," said another shopkeeper.

Sticking to Plan A

Olympic pride is one of the reasons the show must go on. It's the first time the Olympics Games will take place in the United States since the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. The last domestic Winter Games were at Lake Placid, N.Y., in 1980.

Money is another reason. It's estimated the games will cost $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion to host.

And there is the television factor. Worldwide, a projected 3 billion people are expected to watch the Olympics. Some people are worried that could be a tempting target for terrorists because they thrive on publicity.

But there seems to be no turning back. As Miles Rademan, a public relations official for Park City, put it: "There is no plan B."


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), November 01, 2001

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