IOC to review Salt Lake, Athens plansPosted: Monday December 10, 2001 10:03 AM
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) -- Less than two months before the start of the Winter Olympics, the IOC will review the latest plans for keeping athletes and spectators safe from terrorism in Salt Lake City.
The last time the International Olympic Committee's ruling executive board met, it was just days after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington.
The IOC declared then that the Salt Lake City Games would go ahead. Since then, even as the United States went to war in Afghanistan, nothing has happened to weaken that commitment. The Olympic flame is now winding its way across America for the opening ceremony on Feb. 8.
The final preparations in Salt Lake will be a central issue at the IOC's two-day meeting beginning Tuesday. It's the last meeting until the 15 board members gather in Salt Lake on the eve of the games.
The IOC will also consider the behind-schedule construction projects for the 2004 Athens Olympics, drug-testing issues and the potential expulsion of triathlon from the games.
It's the second full executive board meeting under new IOC president Jacques Rogge, who was elected in July to succeed Juan Antonio Samaranch. The Spaniard, who has been battling health problems since then, has been invited to attend.
Salt Lake City organizing chief Mitt Romney is scheduled to report to the IOC board Wednesday by video link from Utah.
Since Sept. 11, the Bush administration has added an extra $34.5 million to a security budget now totaling more than $300 million. No-fly zones will be enforced over Olympic venues, and around 7,000 federal, state and military personnel will guard the games.
But Rogge said security will be largely invisible.
"I don't think we will see a difference from previous games, just as Sydney was not a display of rifles and guns," he said in an interview. "Athletes and spectators should not be concerned they will be in a military camp, absolutely not."
The IOC and Salt Lake organizers have repeatedly said there is no "Plan B" in the event of further terrorist attacks or other crisis.
But the IOC is advising athletes to arrive in Salt Lake enough ahead of time to avoid disruptions caused by any last-minute incident.
"If nothing happens between now and the games, there will be no problem," IOC sports director Gilbert Felli said. "But if something happens in the last few days, it could disrupt travel. We are warning athletes: Don't come at the last minute or you might get stuck."
On doping, the IOC will finalize plans for testing all endurance athletes in Salt Lake for the stamina-boosting hormone EPO.
The IOC will use a combined blood and urine test, similar to the system introduced at the 2000 Sydney Games. It had been hoped that a stand-alone urine test would be ready, but the IOC decided last month to stick to the combined method for now.
"You have to combine both, that's the advice of the world's leading experts," Rogge said. "Anyone claiming to have urine alone is wrong. We can only work at the speed that science provides us."
In addition to the blanket EPO testing of all endurance athletes, the IOC will select 10 percent at random on the morning of their competition for a blood test. If the test shows an abnormally high red blood cell count, the athlete will be banned from competing that day on health grounds.
IOC medical director Patrick Schamasch said the IOC also will prohibit the use of special oxygen devices in Salt Lake. These include hyperbaric chambers and altitude tents, which athletes sleep in to boost their oxygen-carrying red blood cells.
In addition, except for legitimate medical use, no oxygen will be allowed on the field of play or on team benches during the games.
"We don't want the Olympics transformed into a caravan camp," Schamasch said.
On Tuesday, the IOC is scheduled to receive a high-level delegation from the Athens organizing committee. The 2004 preparations have been dogged by delays in construction of venues and roads, squabbling between organizers and the government, and a severe shortage of hotel rooms.
Last month, the IOC panel overseeing the Athens Games reported progress but warned that deadlines remain extremely tight and that a huge amount of work needs to be done in a short time.
The IOC will also consider the fate of triathlon, a sport which made its Olympic debut in Sydney but has been torn by power struggles inside its world governing body.
Rogge has written to International Triathlon Union president Les McDonald, pressing him to sort out the internal problems.
"We are concerned by the constant quarreling in the triathlon world which is disruptive for the athletes and their competitions," Rogge said.
McDonald is due to meet with IOC officials this week.
If the IOC board isn't satisfied with his answers, it could recommend the sport be dropped from the Olympics. Expulsion would require a vote of the full IOC assembly, which meets in Salt Lake before the games.
"If the IOC knocks us out, it's a bloody disaster for the sport," McDonald said.