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Sydney takes a close look
at Atlanta Games security

July 28, 1996
Web posted at: 1:00 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT)

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- At the Sydney Olympic pool Sunday, it was swimming as usual as hopeful young Aussies swam and dreamed their way towards 2000.


But in Atlanta, Sydney Olympic officials were preoccupied with the Saturday morning bombing of Centennial Olympic Park.

"Nobody can absolutely guarantee the safety of all people under every possible condition," said Michael Knight, New South Wales's Olympic Minister. "No one can guard against every lunatic that may be out there."

Officials in Barcelona were well aware of that in 1992. Like Atlanta, Barcelona's games featured an open space without the extensive security measures in place at sporting venues.


But nothing like Saturday's bombing happened in Magic Fountain Plaza at the foot of Olympic Hill, where thousands gathered daily, just as they did at Centennial Olympic Park before the bomb explosion. But unlike Atlanta, Barcelona drew no terrorist attacks.

"It was not just luck," said Manel Castellvi, a spokesman for the Catalan Police. "We say in the security business you have to plan everything and then you have to have luck."

In a nation long accustomed to Basque separatists bombings, officials in Barcelona did not want to squeeze the life out of the city to achieve security. Spanish officials worked hard to create an aura of safety in the Plaza, relying on a large contingent of heavily trained officers, both uniformed and undercover.

icon "Of course, nobody can defend itself over an attack totally," conceded Barcelona's deputy mayor, Joan Clos. (179K AIFF or WAV sound)

Atlanta Olympic officials learned that first-hand Saturday morning, and Sydney officials took note.

icon "It has raised the issue of security outside of venues and we will certainly look at that," said Mal Hemmerling, chief executive of the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. (179K AIFF or WAV sound)

Sydney is not immune to terrorist attacks. In 1978, a bomb planted outside a meeting of dozens of heads of state killed a policeman and two sanitation workers.

Another breach of high-tech security happened in the Australian capital two and a half years ago when a man ran at Prince Charles with a starting pistol.

Sydney's residents are well aware of the security risks.

icon "I think everybody who says it can't happen here has their head in the sand," said one. "It can happen here." (230K AIFF or WAV sound)

Australia hosted a summer Olympics in 1956. But the Australia of the Melbourne Games was a safer, more innocent place .

In four years, Sydney will tackle a security challenge the likes of which the city and the country have never before faced. Despite what will no doubt be massive preparations and planing, just how effectively that challenge will be met cannot be predicted.

"In the end the New South Wales government will do whatever is necessary to make Sydney as safe a place as it can possibly be for the benefit of Australians generally and for our residents," said Knight.

CNN Correspondents John Raedler and Al Goodman contributed to this report.


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