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Airports Brace for Olympics Traffic

February 25, 2002

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ The Salt Lake City airport prepared early Monday for thousands of Olympic fans, athletes and sponsors in what could be the busiest day in its history.

Some 74,000 passengers are expected, said Barbara Gann, spokeswoman for the city Department of Airports.

The airport was virtually deserted Sunday night as airspace above the region was restricted during the Winter Games’ closing ceremony.

Kevin Wheelwright, 41, of Kennewick, Wash., got caught in the terminal during the three-hour closure and watched the ceremony on TV. He was trying to get home from California.

``I thought it was a possibility I’d get stuck here,″ he said. ``I don’t know they needed to shut down the airport. It’s an inconvenience but a mild one.″

At about 10:30 p.m., more than an hour after the ceremony, all flights were held because a metal detector was not working and some passengers required security screening.

Earlier Sunday, lines at the airport extended beyond the length of a football field. Some people waited up to two hours long but most had expected the congestion and left plenty of time.

Cheerful attitudes by Olympic volunteers and airport employees kept the operation moving smoothly.

``I’m not surprised because I expected a long line,″ said Brenda Rhora of Canada, waiting at Delta Air Lines.

Her husband and son crammed next to a tiny TV to watch the last Olympic event, the gold medal hockey game in which Canada defeated the United States. She slowly pushed an overflowing cart of luggage through the 45-minute line.

``I’d start to panic if they told me I wouldn’t make my flight, but I think I will,″ she said.

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