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Salt Lake City residents fear terrorist attacks during Olympics

Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2001

SALT LAKE CITY -- Stephen Pace never liked the idea of bringing the Olympics here. Now, with his home a scant mile from where the medals plaza will be, he fears for his life.

If terrorists are looking to make another global statement, what better place than the middle of the Winter Games next February?

''Putting 100,000-plus people and 10,000-plus reporters there every night is lunacy,'' said Pace, a health industry consultant. ''They are saying it's worth risking everybody's life for. The motto ought to be: 'Don't do anything in downtown Salt Lake they wouldn't do in downtown Tel Aviv.'''

Pace said the International Olympic Committee should consider putting off the games for a year.

Pace, perhaps the loudest local opponent of the Salt Lake Games, may find more people who think the same way since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

While IOC officials stoutly declare the games will go on, more people are now asking: What if?

The IOC said Tuesday that all aspects of security will be reviewed in the wake of the terrorist attacks. But it said a ''catastrophe scenario'' of an airliner crashing into the opening ceremony has been part of security planning since the 1972 Munich massacre.

''In fact our scenario was, and is, a plane crashing in the midst of the opening ceremony, full of people, full of fuel, broadcast live worldwide on television,'' said IOC director general Francois Carrard.

Salt Lake Organizing Committee chief Mitt Romney will report to the IOC on Thursday on the latest plans for keeping the Feb. 8-24 Olympics safe.

In the meantime, Congress has bolstered the $200 million security plan with an additional $12.7 million. Lawmakers also are moving to repeal legislation limiting the use of military personnel in Olympic operations.

At the Triad Center, a complex of shops, restaurants, small businesses and offices flanking the medals plaza, Robert O'Keefe said he is worried about the concentration of international visitors during the games, and how that might be attractive to terrorists.

''What better place to have a huge effect?'' said O'Keefe, an Australian and owner of Cardio Express, a fitness center. ''The terrorists will be looking to strike back. The more countries they can involve, the more innocent people they can kill, the more attractive the target. Any person who supports this war on terrorism is a new target.''

Allan Liu thinks otherwise. A supervisor at the Wyndham Hotel, at the medals plaza's edge, Liu said: ''I definitely want to see the games go on. It would be a shame if the terrorists spoiled the athletes' time.''

Across the plaza, Adam Vester, night manager of the City Creek Inn, looked out the window at the empty parking lot that will become the plaza and shrugged: ''Security will be so stepped up. Being closer to the medals plaza will make it more secure than being far away.''

In the next breath, he seemed to change his mind. ''I can see them leaving a car bomb here big enough to blow up the plaza,'' he said.

Inn owner Lorin Ronnow brushed aside such fears. Before the attacks, he had pushed for more open access during the games and was disappointed when early security plans were announced. After last week's attacks, he said: ''I'm sure they'll do the prudent thing and have the security beefed up.''



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