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Fear Factor?
Tim Layden
May 17, 2004
The Athens bomb blasts raised new concerns, but athletes aren't bailing
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May 17, 2004

Fear Factor?

The Athens bomb blasts raised new concerns, but athletes aren't bailing

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That is, if Fort Knox gets constructed in time. Work on a number of Athens venues, including the Olympic stadium, remains unfinished. "You can't secure something that's not built," says a U.S. government official who has seen the Greek security plan for the Games. "No one seems to understand that all that is linked. The Olympic Village isn't done. The security apparatus isn't installed. You can't make sure you have all the camera angles on something that's not complete. You can't plan an evacuation from a village that is not complete."

In a cramped city of four million, it is impossible to guarantee the safety of every person in every location for the duration of the Olympics. Security experts warn that terrorists could go after "soft" targets, such as crowds of Western visitors, and there are also competition sites that can't be fully protected. "Some of the guys I serve with in the [ Oregon National] Guard have told me, 'You know, it's impossible to secure a 26-mile marathon course,' " says Dan Browne, one of Culpepper's teammates in that event. "I realize that, but I'm not going to live my life in fear. I have confidence in our Olympic committee and in the Greek organizers."

No country has threatened to pull out or suggested that the Olympics might not take place, though the IOC recently took out a $170 million insurance policy to cover cancellation of the Games. Some nations have taken steps of their own to protect their athletes. The Australian Olympic Committee, for example, will have two Qantas jets available for the evacuation of its team. Private security specialists will accompany the Japanese Olympians for the first time. The U.S. team will have more than 100 federal security agents with it, and will be advised to keep a low profile in public.

Even in the best scenario, it seems certain that some of the joy of the Games will be dampened by the terrorist threat, replaced by a sense of caution. "If something happens," says U.S. wrestler Patricia Miranda, a silver medalist at last year's women's world championships, "I can say I wasn't the idiot who was out alone at 11:30 p.m. with an American flag on my head."

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