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Super Bowl Under Unprecedented Security - 2002-02-01

Super Bowl 36, the championship game of American football, is being played this Sunday in New Orleans, Louisiana, under unprecedented security in the the Super Dome stadium, where the Saint Louis Rams take on the New England Patriots.

For the first time ever, the Secret Service will be in charge of security at the Super Bowl. While keeping such a high-profile event safe has always been a high priority, Special Agent Jim Mackin of the Secret Service told VOA Sports that even more precautions than usual will be taken this year, such as a no-drive zone around the stadium.

"This Super Bowl is different because it has been given an NSSC designation, and that means it has been designated as a National Special Security event," he said. "When an event gets that designation, that brings a whole host of federal, state and local law enforcement entities into action."

Officials are expecting up to 80,000 fans to attend the game, plus an additional 40,000 people to be in the area to soak up the party atmosphere.

Aside from being asked to arrive early, Agent Mackin said, the fans won't be inconvenienced. "The fans will see some things that are a little different," he said. "There certainly will be sweeps of items brought into the Dome. We would discourage people from bringing anything in there that they did not absolutely necessarily need. Most of the enhancements and security methods we use won't be seen by the general public. But they will be there. They will see magnetometers, they may see officers on rooftops, they may see K-9 dogs doing sweeps. But that is only a small portion of the actual security blanket that will be in place during the Super Bowl."

An event as large as the Super Bowl with a worldwide television audience could be an inviting target for terrorists. But with a coordinated plan involving city, state and federal agencies and more than two-thousand police and security personnel, Agent Mackin believes the game will be safe.

"A lot of the enhancements that we use will not be seen. When we secure an event like the Super Dome, we need to be cognizant of what is above it, what is below it and everything that surrounds that 52 acres," he said. "And that's what we do. We have come up with a comprehensive plan with all of our law enforcement partners to come up with a seamless, safe environment."

With protection like that, the organizers hope the focus in New Orleans will be on the game.