Let the (Post) Games (Analysis) Begin. (News and Trends)

By Gips, Michael A. | Security Management, May 2002 | Go to article overview

Let the (Post) Games (Analysis) Begin. (News and Trends)


Gips, Michael A., Security Management


The collective exhale by security and law enforcement after a crisis-free Salt Lake City Winter Olympics probably could have melted the ice sheets at the curling venue. That the most distressing aspect of the games was a judging scandal in figure skating is of course a testament to the thousands of police, military personnel, security officers, volunteers, and others who kept the 3,000-square-mile Olympic theater safe. The success was largely due to exhaustive planning and preparation that squelched potentially serious incidents and defused others before they could flare up, say Olympic security officials.

Moreover, says Dave Tubbs, executive director of the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command (UOPSC), the decision to report all incidents to the media immediately was critical. "Nothing came up that was kept from the public," he says.

For example, anthrax was initially detected at the airport during the games, says Tubbs. Hazmat and other safety teams were put on alert, he says, and authorities planned to shut down the airport if the positive test result was confirmed. Fortunately, the definitive test came back negative. The press received this information and generally did not exaggerate it, which might have happened had security not been as forthcoming.

Also reported but occurring without much fanfare was the response by bomb management teams to 604 suspicious packages (none of them containing explosives), most of them called in by the public. In addition, only seven small aircraft on errant flight paths had to be escorted out of Olympic airspace by F-16s. None of these incidents delayed an event or caused a significant disruption, Tubbs says.

Despite the smooth performance, some lessons were learned. Grumbling was heard at the E Center, the hockey arena in West Valley City, says Alan Kerstein, the city's police chief, when security staff were fed seventeen days of hotdogs and chili. …

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