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Ashcroft tosses questions, hails Games ‘miracle’

SHARE Ashcroft tosses questions, hails Games ‘miracle’

"It's a miracle!" U. S. Attorney General John Ashcroft declared.

Whether he was referring to the speed that luge sledder Rebecca DeWaal had gathered just a few seconds out of the chute on the women's luge run, the Park City setting with the icy run snaking down one side of the mountain and ski jumps jutting into the sky on the other, or the whole scope of Utah's preparations for the 2002 Winter Olympics was not quite clear.

But the attorney general was full of questions Saturday on a brief visit to the Park City venues, right down to the cost of energy to run them. Not as much as you might think, an Olympic official told him. "There's no need for refrigeration."

The stop was part of a tour of Olympic venues that began Friday, with an eye particularly open to security issues. In the attorney general's party Saturday were Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney and Ashcroft's wife, Janet. Ashcroft will continue through Tuesday to meet with Olympic officials, law enforcement leaders and others who share responsibility for making the 2002 Winter Olympics safe for athletes, spectators and the Utahns hosting the Games.

Ashcroft has expressed admiration for the work done to get the Olympics ready and has assured the cooperation of national agencies should they become aware of any threats to Games' security. He said in a news conference Friday he expects that Utah's Games will go down in history as a good time unblemished by acts of terrorism or violence. Salt Lake's preparations could become the pattern for the future of events on such a scale, he said.

"Since he's responsible for safety during the Olympics, he wanted to see where they were taking place," Ashcroft's spokeswoman, Lori McMahon told news representatives before the attorney general's party arrived at the warming house abutting the luge run. Whether the attorney general will return for some of the actual Olympic events is still under discussion, she said.

Earlier in the day, Ashcroft got up close and personal with "The Greatest Snow on Earth," taking a ski run down Powder Mountain during a brief tour to that area to meet with U.S. Forest Service, security and law enforcement officials.

"Great progress, great planning," Ashcroft commented to the media, before Romney began a description of the luge, bobsled and skeleton facilities. From a platform where the women's starting point is located, he pointed uphill a couple of curves to where the men's longer runs will begin when competition for Olympic glory begins in earnest.

"How you doing?" Ashcroft called to several workmen shaving ice from the luge run where it was too thick and spraying anhydrous ammonia on walls where it was too thin. From their slippery perch, they waved back to the federal official.Ashcroft posed for a picture with DeWaal and waited for her to whip out of the ice and disappear into the lower reaches of the luge run before setting out for additional visits scheduled for his inspection tour.

E-mail: tvanleer@desnews.com