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Worst Games scenario is now worse

SHARE Worst Games scenario is now worse

Utah's Olympic security planners have always said they're preparing for the worst possible scenarios for the 2002 Winter Games.

The stakes just went up.

As news of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon unfolded Tuesday morning members of the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command were meeting to discuss the implications on security for the Games, which are less than six months away.

Could such a disaster plague the Olympics?

"Such a notion is not nearly as remote today as it was yesterday," said John Powers, who served as executive director of the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection from 1996 to 1998. Powers was one of several speakers at the Jane's Facility Security Conference at the West Coast Hotel Tuesday in Salt Lake City.

"Does this change an airborne threat during the Olympics?" said T.J. Kennedy, who is in charge of Utah's aviation security plan for the Games. "The answer is yeah, it probably does."

Long before Tuesday's airplane attacks, planners had established Olympic no-fly zones around Games venues to ensure planes aren't flying over secured areas.

The restricted zones around Olympic venues, called Temporary Flight Restriction airspace, extend 1 1/2 miles to 3 miles. Along the Wasatch Front, restricted aircraft will not be allowed below 10,000 feet inside Olympic airspace. The Wasatch Back will have a 12,000-foot barrier. The flight restrictions will begin Feb. 4, 2002, and continue until Feb. 24, 2002. The Olympic Village will remain a restricted zone until Feb. 26.

But stopping a plane that violates the no-fly zone could be impossible.

"I don't think you can predict whether this will happen in February or not," Kennedy said. "I think we've put together an excellent plan to detect if it will happen."

Whether those plans will balloon because of Tuesday's incident remains to be seen. Olympic planners were meeting Tuesday morning to discuss the implications the East Coast attacks could have on Utah's security budget for 2002.

"I don't know that it would balloon," said Salt Lake Police Chief Rick Dinse, UOPSC vice chairman. "I don't know that it would go up at all. There are some things in my mind that we would look at."

Dinse said he believes more electronic security equipment and increased security on the ground at airports are essential elements to ensuring the Olympics don't become the target of another terrorist attack.

"From my perspective I do not see the Olympics being canceled," Dinse said.

For now, Dinse has increased the number of officers in Salt Lake and placed officers in sensitive security areas around the city.

"I don't have at this point any information regarding a risk in Salt Lake or in Utah for that matter," Dinse said Tuesday morning. "Even with that we are going heighten our capacity."

E-mail: djensen@desnews.com