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An Olympic boost from Ridge

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Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said exactly what Utahns wanted to hear: "This is probably going to be one of the safest places in the world from Feb. 8 to Feb. 24 . . . and clearly the safest sporting event ever."

Ridge made his comments on national television before touring Olympic venues Thursday.

Security for Olympic Games has always been a concern — the terrorist attack at the 1972 Summer Games in Munich and the bombing at Centennial Park during the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta are testaments to the dangers involved in hosting the premiere international sporting event. But those that concern reached an unprecedented level following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Shortly after that, President Bush named Ridge, then governor of Pennsylvania, to head the new homeland security agency.

Not surprisingly, security has become a major theme at Olympic press conferences. In fact, Ridge's visit followed by a day a briefing with local, national and international media by leaders of the Olympic Public Safety Command. The command is a consortium of federal, state and local agencies charged with keeping the Games safe.

Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney and UPOSC Commander Robert Flowers rarely seem to make it through a press conference without someone asking about Olympic security.

What the media were told Wednesday should be comforting to those planning to attend any of the Olympic-related events. While many of the security details remain confidential, Flowers and UPOSC executive director David Tubbs outlined some security measures such as numerous cameras being placed around Olympic venues with direct feeds to the Olympic Coordination Center in downtown Salt Lake City and the use of thousands of radios.

Because of the emphasis on security, it's gratifying to have the support of Ridge and other national figures as the Games near.

And since Sept. 11, the support for security budget requests has been exceptional. Flowers estimates the Olympic security budget has increased by 25 percent since the terrorist attacks.

"Post Sept. 11 we've received unprecedented support from the White House, from Governor (Mike) Leavitt and others. We've received everything that we've requested," Flowers noted.

Military support has increased as well. According to Flowers, the total number of police and military troops assigned to the Games is now between 8,500 and 10,000 people.

Ridge, Flowers, Tubbs, Romney and all others connected with Olympic security are to be commended for their diligence. A safe Games are all the thanks they want and are likely to be what they receive.