Sam Learmonth was sitting down to supper in his house in Black-town, near Sydney, late last month when he was startled by the roar of Blackhawk helicopters overhead and the rumble of explosions less than a mile away. "Everyone tore out of their houses to have a look," says Learmonth, who, like most Blacktown residents except the mayor, hadn't been informed that the Australian Defence Force, in charge of security for the Summer Games, had chosen the Olympic softball complex in Blacktown as the site of its latest mock terrorist attack.
The army quickly repaired the $100,000 worth of damage to the new $17 million stadium—mostly broken windows and demolished walls. Spokesman Mike Harris called the half-hour exercise "the most sophisticated sort of training that can be undertaken." Learmonth, a sixth-generation resident of Blacktown's Rooty Hill, had another name for it. "They wanted to put on a bit of a show," he says. "Just some hotshot army kids acting like a bunch of yahoos, with the rest of us scared out of our wits."
The Aussies plan to use 11,000 military personnel in an effort (code-named Task Force Gold) to prevent a recurrence of the horrors of Munich or the bumbling reaction to terrorism in Atlanta. Since mid-March troops have been training five days a week to combat everything from chemical warfare to an ocean-liner hijacking.
While Task Force Gold Commander Gary Byles insists that there "is no specific threat to the Games" papers Down Under have cited intelligence sources in identifying Southeast Asian groups linked to terrorist Osama bin Laden as a possible menace. This, along with the March 7 arrest of Sydney resident Mehmet Akin Kayirici for threatening to blow up planes carrying athletes to the Olympics, was incentive enough for the government to commit $43 million to Olympic security. "We have drawn on lessons from Atlanta to ensure we have the appropriate procedures and responses in place should the need arise," says Byles. "Hopefully, this will not be the case."
SPORTS AND CRIME
Cheeseheads And Bad Eggs
Citing the sexual assault charges against Mark Chmura, Wisconsin Democratic state representative David Travis of Madison proposed legislation last week that if passed, would ban athletes convicted of violent crimes from playing in sports facilities subsidized by the state of Wisconsin. In other words, when the NBA team that drafts Fresno State star and convicted batterer Courtney Alexander visits Milwaukee's Bradley Center to play the Bucks, Alexander would be watching the game from the team's hotel room. Packers corner Tyrone Williams, who served 126 days in a Lincoln, Neb., jail in 1997 for firing a gun at an occupied car, would not be able to ply his trade at Lambeau Field.
"If all of these sports teams are approaching every government in the United States with their hands out for new stadiums," Travis says, "then the people who are benefiting directly from that ought to conduct themselves with basic human civility."
Travis's proposal already faces opposition. "Should any construction company that has people with a criminal record working for it not be allowed to bid for taxpayer-funded contracts?" asks Republican representative John Gard of Peshtigo. "You follow this through, and you begin to realize how stupid it really is."
"I don't know anybody who wears a construction worker's jersey around," Travis counters. "People who are role models for kids but who are out of control should not be obtaining public subsidies."