Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg said Wednesday he is "100 percent sure" the 2002 Winter Games will be held in Salt Lake City and never suggested they might be canceled because the United States is at war in Afghanistan.

Heiberg told the Deseret News in a telephone interview from London that news reports labeling him the first Olympic official to question whether the Games should go ahead were inaccurate.

"I'm very sorry that I've caused so much trouble. That was not my intention," Heiberg said. "I am 100 percent sure we are going to have the Games in Salt Lake City. They will start on Feb. 8 next year, and the preparations are going very, very well."

The Associated Press reported Heiberg, who organized the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, told the Norwegian evening paper Aftenposten that a country at war could not host the Games.

"I never mentioned the word war," Heiberg said. Instead, he said he talked about concerns raised by some of his country's athletes over coming to the Salt Lake Games, scheduled for Feb. 8-24, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States.

"The question of security is, of course, very important," Heiberg said. "After Sept. 11, there is a new situation concerning security. That is being dealt with. I know the U.S. government is granting more money."

Other Norwegians are worried. A group of unnamed sponsors has pulled its support from the "Norway House" planned for a former library building in Park City, leaving Norway's Export Council owing half of the $200,000 payment promised to the city.

"The deal isn't dead," Frank Bell, Park City's Olympic coordinator, said. "The Norwegian consulate (in Salt Lake City) is looking for other options."

A spokesman for the Norwegian Olympic Committee, however, said plans for the hospitality house have been canceled. An article in Aftenposten said the sponsors withdrew because their clients didn't want to travel after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Some of our athletes are worried about the situation," Halvor Lea, the director of information for the Norwegian Olympic Committee, acknowledged in an e-mail response to Deseret News questions.

"If the IOC, SLOC and the international community agree that the Games will be held as planned, and the security is well taken care of, we will participate. But every athlete and trainer will, of course, have the possibility to make their own choice."

Heiberg, who is traveling on business, said he contacted both the International Olympic Committee's top administrator, Francois Carrard, and Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney about the AP story.

"He's completely shocked at the interpretation given his words," Carrard, the IOC's director general, said Wednesday. "He said, 'What? I never said that,' " when told about the press reports.

Aftenposten said the issue of whether the Games can go on is expected to be raised next week when Heiberg and other members of the IOC's coordination commission for the 2002 Games meet in Salt Lake City.

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Carrard, though, said there's no question the Games will go on as scheduled next February. "There is absolutely no other option for us on the table other than to hold the Games," he said.

Unless, Carrard said, "World War III is erupting, the world is being bombed, all communications are ceasing, all travel is prohibited. Then we would have to see what we can or cannot do. Certainly we cannot plan for this, and we are not planning for this."

Romney said before he took the call that he expected Heiberg to be upset about the situation. "Nothing could have disturbed him more than to be the source of this totally inaccurate story," Romney said.


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