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Rogge approves of security setup

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Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, arrived Tuesday in Salt Lake City and said he felt safe being here for the 2002 Winter Games.

"I think that everything that was humanly possible has been put in place," Rogge told two dozen journalists from as far away as Sweden and Japan who gathered at the Salt Lake City International Airport early Tuesday evening.

"We have been reassured by contacts we've had with the organizing committee and U.S. officials," he said. Even as he spoke near the baggage claims area, soldiers armed with M-16 rifles and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled the airport.

"I think they are there for our protection, so I'm glad to see them," Rogge said of the increased security presence at the airport since his first visit to Utah in August, a few weeks after being elected to succeed longtime IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch.

Rogge has repeatedly offered his own assurances to the world that the Salt Lake Games would be safe despite the fears raised by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

He said Tuesday the Salt Lake Organizing Committee has made "excellent preparations" for the Games.

Before the Games begin Feb. 8, Rogge will preside over meetings of both the IOC Executive Board and the IOC Session, the annual gathering of all 120-plus members of the Swiss-based organization.

The meetings will be at the Little America and Grand America hotels, but the IOC will stay at the lower-priced Little America. Rogge, who was accompanied by his wife, Anne, will move from the hotel Feb. 7 to the Olympic Village.

"It's the best place in town," Rogge said of the student dormitories on the University of Utah campus that opened as the Olympic Village earlier Tuesday. Some teams, including Puerto Rico's, were already moving in.

This won't be Rogge's first time living among athletes during an Olympics. A sailor, he competed in three Summer Games and led Olympic teams from his native Belgium at two Winter Games and three Summer Games.

"It's a wonderful place," Rogge said. "It's a place where you have athletes of all countries, all religions, all ethnic origins, all languages and cultures coming together and living in a fantastic atmosphere, so I want to be there again."

He had less to say about the recent decision by federal prosecutors to appeal the dismissal of charges against Salt Lake bid leaders Tom Welch and Dave Johnson in connection with the more than $1 million in cash and gifts given to influence the IOC's 1995 vote that gave Salt Lake the Games.

"We do not want to comment on that," he said. "That's a matter for the United States to decide."

Rogge and his entourage were met at the airport by Fraser Bullock, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's chief executive officer, and Bob Garff, chairman of the SLOC Board of Trustees. They gave the IOC president a SLOC jacket, part of the official uniform for organizing committee staffers.

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