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TOM BEARDEN: This is what the Olympic games are supposed to be about, intense but friendly competition between the best athletes from all over the world. But when the U.S. and Canadian women’s hockey teams met in Salt Lake City recently, there was more going on than just a hockey game. Katie King plays on the U.S. team.
TOM BEARDEN: Do you think anybody’s scared?
KATIE KING, U.S. National Hockey Team: Think anybody’s scared? Um, yeah. I think people are scared. I think that when we’re a situation like this arises, I mean, you know, you go through a lot of range of emotions. And I think, you know, it’s… Our best time is on the ice because you’re only think about playing hockey. But yeah, I think definitely people are scared.
TOM BEARDEN: The organizers of the Salt Lake Winter games had already planned to spend an unprecedented amount of money on security before the September 11 attacks. Olympic security has been a major issue ever since 1972 in Munich, when 11 Israeli athletes were killed by Arab terrorists. And five years ago in Atlanta, a pipe bomb injured concertgoers. So immediately after the September attacks, the chairman of Salt Lake’s organizing committee, Mitt Romney, asked Washington for an extra $40 million for security, and got it.
MITT ROMNEY, President, Salt Lake Olympic Committee: The federal government has allocated approximately $200 million– which is double that which was used in Atlanta, and those are much bigger games– to secure the games here in Salt Lake City. That number will probably go up $30 million or $40 million more, and in addition to that, the state and our own organizing committee have about $70 million invested as well. So all totaled, we’re talking about $300 million to secure the games.
TOM BEARDEN: Romney says most of that money will be spent on people: 7,000 law enforcement officers, 3,000 national guardsmen, and an undisclosed number of FBI and Secret Service agents. They have a lot of territory to protect. The venues, which have been completed and in use for some time, are spread all over the area. Hockey is in the city, but the luge, bobsled, and ski jumping competitions are 34 miles away – the downhill 53 miles out. Officials have been planning for those challenges for more than two years. But after the attacks, they went back over everything in minute detail. Robert Flowers is the coordinator of all security plans for the games.
ROBERT FLOWERS: Things are going – our venues, you know, as menial as hot dogs and things like that, we wanted to make sure that everything that went in, we knew what it was and it was checked. We were going to have businesses do their own checking, but we decided to do that ourselves now.
TOM BEARDEN: Why?
ROBERT FLOWERS: Comfort, comfort. Make sure it’s being done right. We also wanted to take a look at what we call our mag and bag operation, when we have people come through magnetometers and checking bags and there were some decisions made. They’re not to allow bags now inside venues.
TOM BEARDEN: Before September 11, plans were to award Olympic medals in an open park in downtown Salt Lake City. No longer.
MITT ROMNEY: Our plan is to have a medals celebration where every athlete gets their medal in the evening on nationwide TV, and participates also in a free concert that the entire community can come in and enjoy. That site is an entire city block. We’ve decided to take eight blocks around that site and surround them with fencing and security as well, such that people could come into downtown Salt Lake City and celebrate, have food, attend concerts, see medals events, even go to a figure skating or speed skating event, and all do that within an area that’s been secured.
TOM BEARDEN: Security for the Olympic Village, where the athletes will live, will also be improved. The village will now be completely surrounded by a fence, and there will be stringent checks of credentials for anyone seeking admittance. Becky Kellar, who plays defense the Canadian woman’s hockey team, finds that comforting.
BECKY KELLAR, Canadian National Hockey Team: I think there’s always the concern that someone’s going to get in, something going to happen. The thought’s always in your mind that there could be something that’s pure terrorism, but I kind of have faith in the fact that, you know, we’ve got all these months to prepare, and that the Americans are going to do the best they can to make it a safe situation.
TOM BEARDEN: U.S. Hockey player Julie Chu agrees.
JULIE CHU, U.S. National Hockey Team: I’m sure there are some fears out there, but I think as we hear more and more about our… The efforts that our country’s making to help protect the Americans, I feel more comforted.
TOM BEARDEN: With so many venues and so many spectators, Flowers is worried more about false alarms than an actual attack.
ROBERT FLOWERS: What I’m concerned about are the hoaxes. If we have a hoax in a venue, do we need to send everybody out of the venue? Do we need to evacuate? When you talk about evacuating several thousand people out of an Olympic facility out of a hoax, somebody has to sit straight and tall to make those decisions, and I’m a little worried about that. But I think when we get there, we’ll be ready.
TOM BEARDEN: Some officials even think the security measures will force terrorists to look for easier targets. But that doesn’t stop Police Chief Rick Dinse from worrying. He worked in Los Angeles during the 1984 summer games.
RICK DINSE, Salt Lake City Police Chief: I lose sleep every night, and that’s my job, I think. If I wasn’t losing sleep and thinking and waking up and writing notes and driving my staff crazy with these things, then I’d be… I probably would be worried and derelict.
TOM BEARDEN: Do you have any specific fears?
RICK DINSE: Yeah. Fears that something terrible will happen and that we haven’t thought of something, that we haven’t been able to plan well enough for something and something does happen. But this is going to be a hard place to get to, a hard– I don’t mean to come to– but a hard place to do something negative in. If this is a target, it’s going to be a tough target.
TOM BEARDEN: Authorities plan to make it an even tougher target. They’ll restrict air traffic around the venues for the three weeks of competition. In addition, they plan to completely shut down Salt Lake City International Airport during the opening and closing ceremonies, when more than 40,000 people will be in the Olympic stadium. Recently, members of the Salt Lake City community and a member of the International Olympic committee suggested the games be postponed until after the war. Romney says that is not an option.
MITT ROMNEY: I know the IOC indicated that there was some discussion there about what the terrorist events meant for the games. I spoke with the President of the International Olympic Committee, Dr. Jacque Roga, and he said the unanimous view of the leaders of the International Olympic Committee, the national Olympic committees from around the world, as well as our own team here came together, and that was, the games go forward.
TOM BEARDEN: The winter games are scheduled to begin February 8.