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IOC Approves Salt Lake City Security Arrangements - 2002-01-09

The International Olympic Committee says tight security arrangements are in place for next month's winter games in Salt Lake City in the United States. The president of the IOC says he anticipates no problems at the games.

IOC President Jacques Rogge says the Olympic movement was aware of the need for tight security long before the terrorist attacks in the United States. At a news conference in Geneva Mr. Rogge said security has been the IOC's number-one priority ever since Arab terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympic games in Munich.

But the IOC president acknowledges that, after the September attacks, U.S. officials and security experts reviewed the measures that had been taken to prevent a terrorist attack at the winter games. "The reports were that the strategy that was in place before the 11th of September was a sound one and did not need to be changed," he said. "The only thing that was changed is that on the operational side, a bit more people, a bit more hardware, a few more cameras were put in place."

Mr. Rogge says Salt Lake City will be considered a no-fly zone for the duration of the winter games to prevent a plane crashing into the site either accidentally or on purpose. And he says that, for the first time at an Olympics, the passports of all athletes attending the games will be registered on a website.

The IOC president says his biggest concern, after the threat of terrorism, is the use of performance-enhancing drugs by athletes. To help combat this, Mr. Rogge says, the IOC will be using faster and more accurate methods for detecting illegal drug use by athletes. "In the previous games, because of the time required by the testing in the lab, we could not test all the athletes," said Jacques Rogge. "Thanks to a refinement in the tests, we will test all the athletes in and out of competition, which is a very important breakthrough."

Mr. Rogge, who became IOC president in July, says he plans a number of changes in the Olympics. In the past, he says, the Olympic movement generally has been the privilege of the rich. He hopes to change this by helping poor countries develop their sports programs so they can participate more fully in the games. And he says he is confident that one day countries in Africa and Latin America will be ready to host the games. "Both of the continents will continue to evolve economically, politically and socially," he said. "And, at the same time, we are going to reduce the burden of organizing the games. But we will always look for quality first because the games are for the athletes. The games are not for the prestige of a country and/or a continent."

About 80 nations are expected to participate in the Winter Games, which will run from February 8 to the 24.

One of those not participating will be Afghanistan, which was excluded from the Olympics because the country's Taleban rulers refused to allow women to participate. Now that the Taleban are gone, Mr. Rogge says, an IOC team hopes to go to Afghanistan in the coming weeks to talk with the new government about its return to the games, possibly in 2004.