Aug 1, 2001 12:00 PM

Get set for the biggest Olympic security effort in history. Officials for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City will combine experience and technology to keep the Games safe.

Over the years, security approaches have evolved. Each Olympic city passes along what it has learned to the next organizing committee.

You don't have a lot of the small problems, but you have the potential for some very big problems.

On a chilly February evening early next year, scores of athletes representing more than 80 nations will march into Salt Lake City's Rice-Eccles Olympics Stadium to the thundering cheers of spectators. On that evening, and in the days that follow, more than 1.5 million spectators ! and hundreds of millions more watching via TV ! will witness the best athletic competition the world has to offer. From downhill skiing to figure skating to ice hockey, men and women will push their bodies and skills to the limit.

Amid the pageantry, and largely unseen, another Olympian effort will be taking place. These 2002 Winter Olympic Games will be guarded by one of the most elaborate security systems the world has ever seen. If all goes according to plan ! and those intricate calculations have been years in the making ! this particular endeavor will avoid making headlines.

Because the Olympics command so much attention and draw so many spectators ! from ordinary fans to heads of state ! the threat of disaster has long hung over them. Israeli athletes were massacred by terrorists during the 1972 Munich games. More recently, a bomb exploded in Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 summer games in Atlanta.

No wonder, then, that these games are classified as a national security event by the Federal government. A Presidential Directive designates the Secret Service as the leader in a security effort that involves governmental agencies ranging from the FBI, CIA, INS, and Department of Defense, to local and state police forces.

"That strategy is very straightforward," says D. Fraser Bullock, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC). "It is to have a secure perimeter around all of our venues. That's where we invest most of our security assets. We also have law enforcement personnel inside the venue, but that need is less, given a secure perimeter."

Bullock serves on the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command (UOPSC), which is made up of representatives from all agencies involved in Olympic security. This organization promotes interagency cooperation and also reviews security plans formulated by the Secret Service.

Just as athletes have spent long hours training in the months and years leading up to the games, these security personnel have devoted long hours to developing the security plan that will keep them safe.

More so than in any previous Games, Salt Lake City will be relying on a high-tech security approach. Cameras, metal detectors and sophisticated software will monitor everyone who enters an Olympic event.

The primary goal of the plan is to allow the Games to go on unfettered, while at the same time, keeping trouble out.

"You could have absolute security, but not have any events or spectators," remarks Bill Rathburn. Now a security consultant, he served as director of security during the '96 Summer Games and headed Olympic security for the Los Angeles Police Department during the '84 Summer Games in that city. "I've said in jest that the 8.6 million that we had in Atlanta just complicated the hell out of my life. Salt Lake only has to worry about 1.5 million, but that's a huge group of people. So the spectators contribute to it."

Over the years, security approaches have evolved. Each Olympic city passes along what it has learned to the next organizing committee. Each location has been a test run for new techniques and improved equipment.

"The most significant difference between the '84 Olympics and the '96 Olympics was the use of security technology," says Rathburn. "The fact that there had been significant improvements in technology in that period allowed us to do things there we could not have done in L.A. There's no question that this rapid development of technology is one of the things that helps the security planners provide a higher level of security. There's still a need for a lot of people, but I think electronic security minimizes the need for people. It allows you to maximize the effectiveness of the people you do deploy. You can do things like alarm assessment, without dispatching someone every time."

Olympic officials have turned to Boca Raton, Fla.-based Sensormatic Electronics Corp and Garland, Texas-based Garrett Metal Detectors to provide high-tech components for securing the Games.

Sensormatic's relationship with the Olympics began in 1996 when the company became the first electronic security supplier to the Games. Now Sensormatic is also gearing up to provide security to Team USA and its three training venues in Colorado Springs, Lake Placid, N.Y., and Chula Vista, Calif.

"Sensormatic provides electronic security technology in three different formats," explains Lou Chiera, the company's director of Olympic marketing. "It's video surveillance and transmission and recording technology, access control technology ! and we even have some of our traditional anti-shoplifting products."

The company plans to install more than 300 dome cameras at indoor and outdoor venues. The first of its state-of-the-art units got a test run last winter at the Utah Olympic Park near Salt Lake City. That camera watches over the bobsled and luge racetracks.

"That's our programmable video surveillance product," says Chiera. "It can work outdoors in any type of temperature extreme. In the outdoors, it actually sees better than the human eye. The built-in heaters and fog eliminating blowers inside the outdoor dome give a clear view of the venue even in extreme temperatures."

The Olympic speed skating oval has 25 domes already installed. The domes have undergone extensive cold weather tests during a series of pre-Olympic events that have served as a warmup for the big games.

In addition to the domes, Sensormatic is also providing a number of fixed cameras. Images from these units will be transmitted back to a central command center via fiber-optic lines installed by Lucent Technology and Qwest Communications.

"We have fixed cameras installed underground that look at the refrigeration equipment in this venue," says Chiera. "We have domes that can survey the track as well as outdoor areas. If you want to do things like make sure the track is clear or to facilitate crowd control, then video surveillance can help you with that."

More than 60 of Sensormatic's Intellex units will allow personnel to monitor venues remotely from a central location.

"They will not only be protecting competition venues, but also protecting non-competition venues such as the Press Center and Medals Plaza ! a central location in downtown Salt Lake City," says Chiera.

In addition to the field surveillance and digital transmission and recording technology, the company has also installed its C-CURE access control system in the headquarters for the Organizing Committee. Eventually the badging system will be monitoring more than 3,000 employees for the Olympics committee.

"Right now, it's just a swipe in their headquarters building, but when it goes to some of these command centers and begins to move into high-security areas, you will see either retina scanning and finger printing also being attached to the prox card," says Chiera. "It would be used in isolated areas where we would be sure not to have a queuing problem."

The company's ink-tag "benefit denial" products will deter shoplifters. Olympic merchandise stores are tagging garments with the device that releases a nonwashable dye onto the fabric if not properly removed by store personnel.

Each day during the Games, thousands of fans will pass in and out of the ten competition venues and non-competition areas such as the Medals Plaza. Each time a person enters, he or she will be scanned by metal detectors. These units are so accurate that they can pinpoint where an offending object is located on the body.

"We're using, in some cases, what we call pinpoint magnetometers," says Bullock. "When someone goes through a mag and sets it off, it's time-consuming to use a wand to find what set it off. That slows down your flow-through rate. So we have the pinpoint magnetometers that will highlight electronically where the strike was on the magnetometer. In some cases we'll have another set of mags, but almost always we'll wand them (with a hand scanner unit)."

Metal detectors first made their debut during the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. Following the U.S. boycott of the Moscow games four years earlier, officials were wary of the dangers that might be lurking. Memories of the deadly terrorist attack in Munich were also still fresh.

"Any time the Olympics are held on U.S. soil, there is a bigger concern for security because it offers a very large, well-publicized stage if a terrorist wanted to cause problems," says Jim Dobrei, Garrett's director of Olympic Sales.

The 1984 Games also marked the year that his company first got into the security business. Olympic officials asked the company ! which specialized in metal detectors for hobbyists and treasure hunters ! to build units to protect the athletes' village. The company constructed 60 walkthrough detectors from scratch, while also providing 120 hand scanners. The project proved so successful that Garrett decided to get into the security business full time.

Today, the company provides security for airports, prisons and courtrooms, as well as its fastest growing market ! schools ! in more than 80 countries. It has grown into the world's largest maker of metal detectors.

Gearing up to deploy the units is a massive undertaking for a relatively small company such as Garrett. Each time the Olympics are staged, it becomes the largest deployment and installation of metal detectors in history. The Barcelona Games marked the first time that security was expanded from the Olympic Village to the competitive venues, when officials began hand-scanning spectators. In Atlanta, walkthrough metal detectors made their debut. In Sydney, the company provided 800 walk-through and more than 1,600 handheld scanners.

"So our numbers keep getting bigger," observes Dobrei. "Salt Lake will have close to 500 walkthroughs. No previous winter Olympics saw more than about 30-35, and they were usually borrowed from local police departments."

With the growth in numbers of detectors, training has become more important. Volunteers will operate most of the Magnascanners provided by Garrett so that law enforcement personnel can be freed up for other jobs.

"Metal detectors are usually the last piece of equipment that goes into a venue because they're right at the gates," says Dobrei. "Many times even the gates aren't established until right at the end when they finally put the fencing up. We have a very short period of time to do a lot of work. Most of the effort takes place within a two-week window. Many of these facilities are being used up until the time of the Olympics. Then when we break them down at the end of the Games, we have to get in and do that very quickly."

The company is already conducting training programs for Olympic personnel and volunteers.

"We have to give a lot of thought to how do you ! in a very short period of time ! acquaint people with your equipment," says Dobrei. "As a result, we have spun off a Garrett Academy. It's the only official training academy that really has its roots in the Olympics. We give one-to eight-hour sessions to customers on our equipment."

Time is critical, so Garrett, along with Sensormatic, will be deploying a large number of personnel to install equipment and then make sure it's working correctly as the Games progress.

"A lot of these venues don't come into control of the Organizing Committee until near the beginning of the Games," says Chiera. "We've completed about 30 percent of our installations. A lot of them are backend-loaded, with them taking possession of the things like the Olympic stadium and the Delta Center where the Utah Jazz play. They don't take command of those places until 45 days or so out."

Developing effective security is critical, but officials agree that metal detectors and guards with hand scanners should also be low-key so as not to detract from the Games.

"This is a sporting event. It's not a security event," asserts Bullock. "Within that context, we obviously need excellent security. When we're at a venue we have the perimeter considerably removed from the field of play, from the grandstands, and the concessions stands. Once you're in the perimeter, you can enjoy the festive atmosphere of the Olympics without seeing the fences and components like that. Then we decorate. If we have a fence, we put the look of the Games on it to create a festive atmosphere."

The area of security has expanded with each successive Olympics. First it was merely protecting the athletes in the Olympic Village, then it became the venues, and now it has expended to all spectators. After the Atlanta bombing, which occurred in an area outside the Olympic venue, protection is being extended to public spaces as well.

At the same time, officials also must make sure that inconvenience is kept to a minimum. For example, careful analysis is made of the number of people who can pass through each metal detector entering and leaving events. Searching bags and calling individuals out of a line to be scanned for a suspicious object can seem like an invasion of privacy.

Besides, experts say the type of spectator who attends an Olympic event almost never poses any kind of threat. Many are business people, sponsors, families of athletes, or fans who have spent considerable capital to attend the events. Few of them are looking for trouble.

"You don't have a lot of the small problems, but you have the potential for some very big problems," observes Rathburn. "Metal detectors interfere with the whole process, but people are increasingly tolerant of them. People recognize the need for security. If it is, in fact, an invasion of privacy, then they're willing to give up a small part of their privacy to improve their physical security."

The threat of terrorism in the Olympics is only part of the security problem.

"I've had to remind myself many times over the year that terrorism is only one of many concerns," observes Rathburn. "The concerns cover the spectrums from the very basic up to very sophisticated threats to the security of the games. It goes all the way down to street crime, burglaries in hotel rooms, and just everything. You can't leave anything uncovered or unprotected."

Security officials must also be concerned with events that take place outside the Games. Terrorists might strike at events leading up to the Olympics or at officials or athletes outside the Games.

Then, of course, there are the unexpected ! and sometime bizarre ! developments. Who could have predicted that in 1994 speed skater Nancy Kerrigan would be attacked by thugs hired by rival Tonya Harding?

Officials also agree that it is ultimately impossible to secure every area. While trained security and high-tech devices can prevent a terrorist from entering the secured areas, there is always another target just outside the protective circle. Today, however, that circle is bigger and better protected than at any time in the Olympics' long and distinguished history.

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