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Olympic security concerns head to Washington

From Dana Bash
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Utah officials and Olympic organizers will hold a high-profile meeting with federal law enforcement officials in Washington next week to review security measures for next year's Winter Games -- and to send the message that Salt Lake City will be safe.

Congressional aides term the meeting "completely precautionary" because there is currently "no credible threat" to the games.

Attendees of Wednesday's meeting will discuss initial results of an emergency security review, according to congressional aides. They said the review by the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command, the FBI and the Secret Service began immediately after the September 11 terror attacks.

Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney and members of the Utah congressional delegation will meet at the Capitol with Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller and representatives from the Secret Service, Defense Department and Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to an aide to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

A bipartisan delegation from the congressional leadership will also be at the meeting. Attendees will discuss possible needs for more funding and extra personnel. Utah lawmakers intend to ask Congress for more federal financial assistance for security, which may set the stage for a fight with some members already critical of the amount Congress has allocated for the games. According to a report by the General Accounting Office, federal funding for the Salt Lake City Olympics was expected to total $1.4 billion, including money for infrastructure such as roads and bridges. About $200 million of that was expected to go for security measures.

In addition, the state of Utah and Olympic organizers have spent an additional $70 million on security measures, according to a statement from Romney.

Congress allocated an additional $12.7 million for Olympics security as part of the $40 billion in emergency funding following the September 11 attacks, and lawmakers expect to ask for at least $10 million more.

"Senator Hatch wants to ensure everyone the federal government will not spare on cost so that the Olympic message and spirit will be preserved," said Hatch spokesman Chris Rosche.

In the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the offices of two Utah congressmen have received an increased number of calls from people worried about safety during the Olympics, according to their spokesmen.

The Winter Olympics are scheduled to be held February 8 to February 24, 2002, in the Utah capital.

Utah lawmakers also intend to use Wednesday's meeting to send a message to a leery public that Salt Lake City will be safe -- and that people should not be afraid to come to the games.

Olympic organizers are concerned about selling tickets to the games, and Utah lawmakers are worried about the potential economic impact on Salt Lake City, according to the aides.

"One of the concerns is we still have to sell a lot of tickets. They're going to be severely over budget if they don't sell these games, and we're going to have to instill confidence," said an aide to a Utah lawmaker.

In a statement, Romney said Olympic officials "are revisiting and reviewing what is a very solid public safety plan. We will make every effort to assure the safety of the games for the athletes, spectators, sponsors, guests and the venue communities."

Romney said that "while there are no guarantees in the world of security," organizers have "several factors in our favor."

"First, security agencies have planned long and hard to protect these games. Second, they know both the time and place to be protected. And the, the Olympic movement is not the terrorists' target," he said.

The fallout from the terrorist attacks is the latest hurdle Salt Lake organizers have faced in their decades-long quest to host the Winter Olympics.

A controversy over tactics used to win votes from members of the International Olympic Committee caused a public relations nightmare and led to criminal charges against some officials who led Salt Lake's bid for the games.

In the wake of the scandal, the IOC overhauled its bidding process. Romney was brought on board to help restore credibility.

The Salt Lake games will be the first Winter Olympics held in the United States since the 1980 event at Lake Placid, New York. The Summer Olympics were held in Atlanta in 1996.



 
 
 
 



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