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Attack likely, 31% say

National poll says many fear for Games safety

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WASHINGTON — One-third of the public in an Associated Press poll believes a terrorist attack is likely at the Winter Games next month in Salt Lake City.

The number concerned about terrorism at the Olympics — at a site protected by a $300 million security effort — was about half the amount in recent polls who fear an attack is likely somewhere in the United States in the near future.

Women were twice as likely as men to think terrorist attacks on the Games were likely, according to the poll, conducted for The AP by ICR of Media, Pa. Only one in 20 people overall thought a terrorist attack on the Olympics was very likely.

"My heart is broken, but I think it can happen," said Dorothy Moser, a 73-year-old retiree from Mount Pleasant, S.C. "I know they want to hurt our country. I'm not really shocked at anything they want to go for."

But Utah officials aren't among the 31 percent in a new poll who say terrorism is likely during the Olympics.

The Associated Press survey, released Wednesday, found 5 percent who said a terrorist attack is very likely during the Feb. 8-24 Games. Another 26 percent said an attack was somewhat likely.

But Al Mansell, president of the Utah Senate, says he'll be sending his family to every event he can afford. He said he has "absolutely no fear" about terrorism during the Games.

"I think their fears are wildly misguided," he said. "The only place that will be more secure during the Olympics will be the White House."

Mitt Romney, president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, says he agrees with the majority, who don't forecast terror.

Thirty-two percent said terrorism was very unlikely during the Olympics, and 31 percent said it was somewhat unlikely.

Tammy Palmer, spokeswoman for the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command, finds it encouraging that nearly two-thirds think terrorism is unlikely

Olympic security, an unprecedented operation involving about 60 different agencies and more than $300 million, is solid, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said after a tour of Games venues this week.

Ashcroft joins several other top law enforcement officials in saying the Games are as safe as they can get.

"People must be finding some confidence in that," Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said. Shurtleff said he would have expected a higher percentage of people to fear Olympic terrorism.

U.S. officials have declared the Olympics will be the safest sporting event ever and have said there will be no safer place in the world than Salt Lake City during the Games that start Feb. 8 and run just over two weeks.

"I personally don't think there will be a terrorist attack," said Jon Mann, a 34-year-old employee at a Wal-Mart distribution center in Peoria, Ariz. "It's a little too obvious; there's a little too much security."

On a separate Olympics topic, the Games will cost about $2 billion — with a fifth of that paid by tax money. Much of the cost will be underwritten by commercial interests.

The federal government is spending almost $400 million, with more than half of that for security.

Two-thirds in the poll said they thought the advertising and commercial presence at the Olympics were necessary to pay the bills.

Almost that many — 63 percent — thought tax money should not be used. Older Americans and blacks were more likely to oppose using tax money.

"I'd like to see no tax money used," said Christine Tedesco, a 71-year-old retiree from Rutland, Vt. "Our taxes should go for other things, support the system of helping people who need help."

She mentioned the high cost of prescription drugs.

Six in 10 said they were interested in the Winter Olympics with 19 percent saying they were very interested. The number who said they were very interested in the Summer Games in 1996 was slightly higher — a fourth of those polled.