As for security,
personnel from more than 60 law-enforcement agencies, plus private guards hired
by the LAOOC—a force of almost 17,000—is being assembled at a cost of more than
$100 million. The FBI has plans to assign 700 agents, almost a tenth of its
entire force, to Southern California. Secret Service, State Department
security, Customs, Immigration service and even Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
Bureau contingents will be on hand from the Federal Government, and police and
the National Guard will be provided by California. Regular U.S. Army troops
will be available if needed, and FBI director William Webster revealed more
than a year ago that the Army's Delta Force antiterrorist unit will be on
standby. Retired Army Colonel Charlie Beckwith, who was commander of Delta
Force during its abortive attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran, was
retained by the White House to write a special secret report evaluating the
overall security plan.
But, as Sherman
Block, the Los Angeles County sheriff, has repeatedly said, no matter how
elaborate the security arrangements, there can be no guarantee that terrorism
won't occur. And there has been a lingering, and disconcerting, jurisdictional
dispute between the FBI and the LAPD over the handling of possible terrorism
within the city limits.
preoccupation with security mar the ambience of the Games? Edgar Best, the
LAOOC's security director, put it bluntly when he declared, "The question
is, will the protection be of such a nature that it overshadows this
magnificent [time] in the history of Los Angeles?" His answer: "I for
one certainly hope it doesn't. I hope it's there. I hope it's unobtrusive. I
hope it's complete. I hope it's professional. I hope it's efficient. But I
certainly don't hope that it takes the spotlight off these Games."
It will be a neat
trick if it doesn't. Too many highly placed people in the multi-agency security
operation believe things can go wrong, and there have been too many lurid
speculative reports in the press about possible terrorist crises for there to
be anything less than highly visible security.
Oddly, Los Angeles
police chief Daryl Gates has occasionally contributed to the atmosphere of
concern by making provocative statements about Olympic security. For instance,
Gates chose a particularly sensitive moment in December, during a Soviet
Olympic delegation's visit to the city, to give an interview describing moves
to settle the jurisdictional dispute with the FBI. Explaining the parceling out
of responsibilities, he declared, "We'll assess each situation. The FBI
doesn't have any bomb experts. We do. They're not skilled in riot control. We
are.... On the other hand, we can't handle nuclear extortion. They can. We may
have an assassination or murder we can work together...."
Despite such scary
talk, there's every sign that the vast majority of Californians are
enthusiastic about the Games. A recent statewide poll showed that 76"% of
those surveyed said they were either very interested (40%) in the Olympics or
somewhat interested (36%) in them. Only 10% said they didn't care. At the same
time, three-fourths of those polled said they welcomed the Games. What bothers
many of the organizers is the ambivalence in this support, as was first shown
by a survey conducted as part of the bid for the Games in 1977. Depending on
how the question was asked, between 70% and 81% of all those questioned said
they wanted the 1984 Olympics. But only 35% wanted them if any local or county
tax revenues were to be spent on them.
particularly in the mind of Ueberroth, the question of how much Angelenos
really want the Games. Partly as an effort to build community enthusiasm,
Ueberroth has launched a youth sports program and come up with a ticket plan
that will allow as many as 100,000 underprivileged kids and disabled and
elderly citizens to see Olympic events free. While frequently expressing in
public the view that enthusiasm for the Games is sure to increase as opening
day approaches, in private Ueberroth has been somewhat pessimistic about the
public response if the committee relaxes to any degree its policy against
directly accepting public money.
frequently, almost plaintively, expresses the hope that the Los Angeles Olympic
spirit will come to resemble more closely what he lauds as the fine spirit of
New York City in respect to its annual marathon. And at a recent press
conference in Sarajevo, Ueberroth wondered aloud whether Los Angeles would be
able to muster the enthusiasm that Sarajevo had.
Are such concerns
real? When the Olympics were staged in Los Angeles in 1932, they marked the
city's coming of age. There was a freshness of commitment to those Games that
helped mightily to make them a success. The same sort of commitment was evident
in Sarajevo, where the residents even voluntarily taxed themselves to put on
the Olympics, while, in Wolper's words, "The attitude in Los Angeles seems
to be: Make it successful for us, but we don't want to pay a nickel."
However, what with
the ambitious security plans, some taxpayer expense is inevitable. A good part
of these security costs will come from the public coffers, in one form or
another, although the LAOOC would rather not draw attention to that fact. Among
the federal, state and local agencies there will be, according to current
commitments and estimates, at least $102 million of Olympic-related spending.
That figure can only grow before July 28.