TWA crash distresses Olympics officials But mayor pronounces Atlanta 'the safest place'

Tragedy Of Flight 800

July 19, 1996|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- Even as officials denied security was tightening, the Summer Olympics trembled yesterday in the wake of the explosion of TWA flight 800.

"We are very distressed by this incident," said Francois Carrard, International Olympic Committee chief administrator. "We have been asked, 'Would it cause us any new alarm?' Such is not the fact."

"Security is a primary, top concern whenever and wherever the Olympics take place," he said. "There is no indication of any connection whatsoever between this tragedy and the Olympic Games. We are totally confident we are in the best, absolute hands."

At the city's international airport, the world's busiest, there were added police foot patrols and tow trucks quickly removed ticketed vehicles. But officials at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport declined to ratchet up their security precautions.

Atlanta's Olympic organizing committee said in a statement that the security program that has been put in place "will ensure the safety of Olympic visitors."

"We have taken an unbelievable number of precautions in planning these Games," Mayor Bill Campbell said. "So I have no doubt they will be safe. In fact, I believe Atlanta will be the safest place for the duration of the Games."

The event is blanketed by the largest peacetime deployment of security forces in American history. More than 30,000 personnel from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have joined thousands of soldiers and volunteers in a $303 million program.

Olympic security also has been boosted by high technology, with handprint analyzers and remote video cameras employed to ward off potential terrorists. Security is so tight, that frogmen patrol the rowing venue. Athletes are housed in an Olympic village protected by fences and razor wire.

At tonight's opening ceremonies, the crowd must be seated by 7: 30, a full 90 minutes before President Clinton arrives.

Terrorism has been a constant Olympic threat since 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were killed at the 1972 Munich Games. Since then, athletes have become accustomed to performing and living in what amounts to an armed camp.

"You can't go 20 yards in the Olympic Village without encountering a security guard," said U.S. swimmer Jon Olsen.

Even a former military man, American basketball star David Robinson, is impressed by the security arrangements.

"To be honest, I don't know how much more they can heighten [the security]," said Robinson, a Naval Academy graduate. "With all the security around us, if somebody gets by them, maybe it's meant for something to happen.

Pub Date: 7/19/96

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