Spectators Delayed For Hours At Ocoee Venue Due to Security
Jul. 27, 1996
OCOEE RIVER, Tenn. (AP) _ Fans at the first day of Olympic whitewater slalom competition were delayed more than two hours after security was increased in the wake of the Atlanta Centennial Park explosion.
Shuttle buses running from four parking lots to the Ocoee Whitewater Center were delayed more than two hours so police could thoroughly search the venue, the athlete's village and parking lots with bomb-sniffing dogs.
Volunteers, musicians, reporters and spectators were kept more than a mile from the venue during the search. No parking is allowed on site.
Once fans were transported to the venue, the lines were long as 20 security officers at four tables hand searched bags, looking through camera lenses, opening binocular cases and smelling water bottles to make sure liquids weren't dangerous chemicals.
``I understand why they have to do this, but it's taken forever,'' said Marion Crowder, 43, of Birmingham, Ala. ``We got at the shuttle lot at 6:30 a.m. and it's taken four hours to get from there, through the search and through the gates.''
Sloan Burton, 19, of Nashville, was stopped when he emptied his pockets and produced a small hunting knife. Three different officers checked the blade before allowing him to enter.
Burton was angry about the delay until a reporter told him about the pipe bomb explosion in Saturday morning in Atlanta that killed at least two people and injured more than 100.
``Really? Well, then I guess it's OK. It's better than the alternative,'' he said.
The Ocoee venue, site of the whitewater canoe and kayak slalom races Saturday and Sunday, has not received any terrorist threats, said Reid Sisson, spokesman for the Tennessee Ocoee Development Agency, an Olympic organizer.
He said a sweep of the venue was routine, but officers were especially cautious Saturday because of the explosion.
Guards searched all bags brought into the venue, asking for electronic devices to be turned off and on and all contents to be removed for inspection.
The races began as scheduled at 10 a.m. following a moment of silence for those killed and injured in the blast. There were less than 500 people in the stands at the time. Most of the anticipated 14,000 fans were still in line at the search tables.
``I think they should have delayed the race so we wouldn't miss anything,'' said David Williams, 29, of Cleveland, Tenn. ``I've been trying to get here for three hours only to get in and find out I've missed 45 minutes of the race. It kind of takes the fun out of it.''