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Homeland security concerns turn to the heartland this month as the nation directs its attention to the slopes and rinks of the Winter Olympics. And at the forefront of the effort to keep the Salt Lake City games free from terrorism are the general counsel of the local and national Olympics committees. “The world has rallied around the Olympic games,” says Kelly Flint, the general counsel of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, which are expected to draw some 70,000 visitors a day. “We expect this to be the best Olympics ever,” echoes former competitive skater Jeffrey Benz, the GC of the United States Olympic Committee. While both Flint and Benz are eager to discuss marketing issues such as the commercial use of the Olympic rings and other trademarks, neither would go into detail about security measures. And don’t mention the arrests that officials made in December at Salt Lake City International Airport, for document irregularities. Says Benz: “I don’t want any focus on this … because [security] is an important part of what we’re doing, but it’s not solely what we’re doing.” Still, the GCs are playing prominent roles behind the scenes. To hear officials tell it, the terrorist attacks last fall serve only as footnotes to an already well-designed plan. “Safety and security were concerns before September 11, and they continue to be now … this is the case anytime you have a large number of people,” says Gordon Johndroe, deputy press secretary for the new federal agency, the Office of Homeland Security, in Washington, D.C. Though the games may be at heart just a hyped field day, it’s hard to ignore the signs of high alert near the Olympic Village. On December 11, for instance, the U.S. attorney’s office indicted 69 workers at the Salt Lake City airport for making false statements about their immigration status or criminal backgrounds. So do the arrests signal a crackdown on potential terrorist activities? “No one can talk about the arrests,” says Melodie Rydalch, a public relations officer at the U.S. attorney’s office in Salt Lake City. Denials aside, the amount of money allocated to protection speaks volumes about the state of anxiety. The cost of the security plan alone for the winter games is almost $300 million, which includes an additional $30 million allocated after September 11. That amount is more than twice that spent on security for the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, when a bomb killed one person. (The most notorious terrorist attack in recent history occurred during the 1972 Olympics in Munich, when Palestinians massacred Israeli athletes.) But what that $300 million buys, no one is saying. While Johndroe admits that “there are additional security measures to protect athletes,” he won’t give any details, except that bioterrorism made the list. As for security clearances, the SLOC’s Flint says that employees at the games are getting thorough background checks. So far, he says, the “rate of irregularity is pretty low — in the single digits.” Flint says that it’s up to the feds to screen Olympic athletes. But, he guesses, that should be manageable. The Winter games are only one-fifth the size of the Summer games. Besides, he adds, “of those countries that participate [in the Winter Olympics], few would raise concerns.” That probably means that few athletes from what the State Department dubs terrorist regimes will be hitting the slopes.

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