Olympic Organizers Ask for Millions
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Organizers of the 2002 Winter Olympics asked congressional leaders Wednesday for millions in additional government funding for security in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The exact figures of the requests remain unclear, but Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt will seek between $4 million and $8 million for state security needs, such as additional fencing and metal detectors at venues.
``There’s a very clear consensus that the games are a national showcase and need to be done in a way that will ensure _ to the degree humanly possible _ safety,″ Leavitt said.
Federal agencies will also ask for money for additional personnel to guard such sites as food warehouses, said Leavitt, although he did not know how much they were seeking.
Salt Lake Organizing Committee president Mitt Romney said organizers also ``will be requesting extraordinary air protection.″
Figures being discussed Tuesday were as high as $40 million, but were in flux throughout the day.
``The amount of money they are asking for has come down,″ said Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, who wasn’t sure where the figures stood.
Leavitt, Romney and members of Utah’s congressional delegation met with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Attorney General John Ashcroft and others to discuss the security needs.
``We are here today to assure the people of the United States and the rest of the world that the Salt Lake City Olympics will be protected and safe,″ Hastert said at the beginning of the closed-door meeting.
Cannon said the changes to the security plans will likely include more personnel at venue gates and more metal detectors.
``No Coke can is going to come in that’s not inspected,″ Cannon said.
But organizers are also sensitive to the risk of over-policing.
``This will be an atmosphere where the security will be evident but comfortable,″ Leavitt said.
Initially, the total Olympic security budget was about $265 million.
Within 24 hours of the hijacked planes slamming into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, the committee was completely reassessing its security plan, although Leavitt says the plan remains fundamentally unchanged.
``We’ve had a long-standing security plan that was an excellent plan before the 11th of September, and it will be an even better one after,″ he said.
The intense, international media attention and the fact that the Winter Olympics are being held in the heart of the United States might make the games an attractive target for terrorists, said Hanna Freij, a professor at Mount Union College in Ohio who specializes in terrorist studies.
Cannon said the Olympics are the type of scheduled, regulated event with heavy security that makes it difficult to perpetrate a terrorist attack.
``Our ability to defend those areas from attack is quite good,″ he said. ``Terrorists have a tendency to strike when they’re not anticipated because they’re chicken.″
On the Net:
Salt Lake Organizing Committee: http://www.saltlake2002.com