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Mile-High City prepares for crush of bombing trial and G7 Summit

March 16, 1997

DENVER (AP) _ An estimated 2,000 spectators, journalists and survivors are expected to crowd the city in two weeks, jamming restaurants, hotels and apartments. Television crews will take over much of the courthouse plaza for the Oklahoma City bombing trial.

And in three months, maybe while that trial is still going on, thousands more, including the heads of several governments, will arrive for the Group of Seven summit of industrialized nations.

It could be a logistical nightmare, but most people are sure the city can handle it. After all, there were few hitches during Pope John Paul’s visit at the 1993 World Youth Day, which drew about 200,000 people.

Even while the sound of nail guns echoed off the courthouse’s stone walls as crews built platforms in the plaza for the news media, Colette Ratcliff paid little mind.

``It’s like no big deal,″ said Ratcliff, marketing director for a hotel one block away. ``You notice it when traffic’s messed up as you drive by the courthouse. I think we just take it in stride.

``We’re aware of it and have compassion in our own individual way for the people that are involved.″

``I can’t tell you that there will be no impact,″ said Amy Bourgeron, a city spokeswoman.

But, she maintains, ``our single greatest threat during G7 or the trial remains the weather,″ referring to Denver’s tornado season.

City officials began preparations for the bombing trial of Timothy McVeigh last year after U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch moved it here from Oklahoma, ruling that an impartial jury couldn’t be seated in the state where the bombing took place.

Mrs. Bourgeron said the city wants to avoid the circuslike atmosphere that prevailed in Los Angeles during O.J. Simpson’s criminal trial.

``Our public had a perception that hosting the trial would produce a media circus like they had just witnessed in L.A.,″ she said. ``People had a fear we were going to be overrun by the media and it would cause headaches.″

With each pretrial hearing, concerns about a media zoo have eased, Mrs. Bourgeron said.

In the meantime, McVeigh’s lawyers filed a motion Friday asking that the trial be delayed or moved out of Colorado because of recent publicity.

Prosecutors asked Matsch to proceed with the trial as scheduled March 31. There was no immediate indication when the judge will rule.

When the trial gets under way, officials believe the initial crush of attention will ease until there are key developments.

There are no plans to close streets, although on-street parking around the courthouse has been banned since the bombing.

Most networks have rented offices to use as studios instead of satellite trucks.

About two dozen satellite trucks from smaller organizations will park in a lot next to the courthouse. Other trucks will be given space in parking lots around sports complexes a few miles away.

Because the G7 summit meeting runs over a weekend, June 20-22, the impact on the downtown area won’t be as severe, Mrs. Bourgeron said. However, it will overlap the trial on that Friday.

City officials could not provide an estimate on how much the two events will cost the city.

There have been no inquiries about vendors, such as the ones who sold memorabilia outside the Simpson trial. ``I think given the nature of this, anything is possible, but that’s probably not a high probability,″ Mrs. Bourgeron said.

Merchants are confident that the lessons learned from the Simpson trial will be put to use here, said Ben Kelly of the Downtown Denver Partnership Inc.

``They’ve got one of those circus things under their belt and I think things will be a lot more efficient,″ he said.

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