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IOC to Keep Olympics in Utah


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London, England Sept. 12, 2001 (AP by Stephen Wilson)–The IOC will keep the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and review every aspect of its security operations following terrorist attacks in the United States.

“We have always put security as the No. 1 priority,” International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

“These dramatic events will not awaken us to security issues. But, for legitimate reasons, we will reassess and re-evaluate everything.”

Rogge stressed the Salt Lake Games will be staged as planned Feb. 8-24, despite heightened concerns in the wake of Tuesday’s violence in the New York and Washington.

“Yes, the games will take place,” he said by telephone from IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. “At the same time, we will discuss the impact on the games later on.”

Rogge said security will be discussed by the ruling IOC executive board next week in Lausanne. Salt Lake Organizing Committee president Mitt Romney will report to the board by video conference from Utah.

“The answer might be nothing has to change,” Rogge said. “The answer might be some things have to change. We will listen to our American friends.”

Rogge declined to specify what areas of security would be examined.

“This is a period of mourning and respect,” he said. “This is not the time to discuss specifics. We have to show respect for the tragedy.”

Rogge described as “horrendous” the attacks in which hijackers crashed jetliners into the World Trade Center towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.

Security has been a prime concern for the IOC since the terrorist assault at the 1972 Munich Olympics claimed the lives of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches and six others.

At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, one person was killed and more than 100 injured when a pipe bomb exploded in Centennial Park.

“We have always at every games worked very closely with the governments which must provide security,” Rogge said. “We’ve always put that as the No. 1 priority. We’ve always been careful in bringing one of the experts from previous games to the organizers and authorities.”

Rogge noted that the security chiefs from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and 2000 Sydney Games, Santiago de Sicard and Peter Ryan, were acting as advisers for Salt Lake and other future games.

Rogge said he spoke by phone Tuesday with Romney, who was in Washington meeting with federal officials about security when the terrorists struck. He also was in touch with U.S. Olympic Committee officials and IOC members in the United States.

Rogge said he and Romney agreed to call off the IOC World Congress on Sports Sciences, scheduled for Sept. 16-21 in Salt Lake City, “out of respect for the loss of life and emotional impact” following the attacks.

Tuesday’s attacks most likely will raise new concerns about safety at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. Security was already a major issue in Athens because of the domestic terror group November 17, which has killed 22 people since 1975.

“It is certain that this action, because it is unprecedented, creates a new situation,” Greek government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said. “It changes the map.”

Dick Pound, a senior IOC member from Canada, said he didn’t expect drastic security changes for Salt Lake City.

“Olympic security has been pretty thorough since Munich,” he said by phone from Montreal. “There is a very high degree of cooperation among security forces. My guess is (the attacks) will probably lead to a more thorough background check on employees, service providers and so on.

“It’s a small enough community that something strange is more likely to be noticed than somewhere else.”

Mark Camillo, the head Olympic agent for the U.S. Secret Service, said from Salt Lake the Federal Aviation Administration will monitor the skies, and the U.S. Custtoms Service will enforce temporary no-fly zones above venues.

One security consultant attending an anti-terrorism conference in Salt Lake said threats can’t be erased.

“There is no way you are going to zero the risk short of canceling the games,” said John Powers, a former Federal Emergency Management agent. “We want to live in an open society. That means we expose ourselves to risk. Sometimes we lose dramatically.”

While the Olympics can provide an ideal stage for global publicity, attacking the Salt Lake Games would be counter-productive for terrorists, Pound said.

“Most of these groups depend on some kind of acceptance or toleration by other countries that harbor them,” he said. “If you do something drastic at the Olympics, like at the opening ceremony, you alienate everybody. I think that decreases the likelihood that something would happen in Salt Lake, over and above all the additional security.”

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press