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Super Bowl Security Extremely High - 2002-02-03

Extremely high security is in place for Sunday's Super Bowl game in New Orleans between America's two top professional football teams, the St. Louis Rams and the New England Patriots.

In the wake of the terrorist assaults in New York and Washington, no one is taking any chances of another attack during one of the two biggest sporting events of the year.

An estimated 80,000 people are expected to fill the New Orleans Superdome to watch the game. On their way to the game, fans and team officials alike have had to leave their cars blocks away from the site and sometimes stand in line for hours for body searches.

Homeland security chief Tom Ridge, appearing of the television program Meet the Press, said those in charge of planning security in Louisiana took nothing for granted.

"I don't think we can afford to be surprised anymore," he said. "We have to think that these audacious, sophisticated, dangerous people are out there. So we shouldn't be surprised at anything they do. And we have to be prepared as we can for any eventuality."

Mr. Ridge says security preparations for the other big sports event, the Salt Lake City Olympics, in Utah, began two-and-one-half years ago. But they have been significantly beefed up since last fall. Nearly 60 different agencies are involved in security measures aimed at making sure no harm comes to the athletes or the thousands of people expected to attend the winter games.

Osama Bin Laden, the Muslim extremist the U.S. blames for the terrorist attacks, vowed to choke Americans on their own security measures. Mr. Ridge was asked whether he has succeeded at his goal. "He has not. He has certainly made it a lot less convenient for us to do a lot of things," he said. "And he has put us on notice to be a safer and stronger country, we have to take the likes of Bin Laden and those who would follow Bin Laden, that we accept would undermine our way of life."

The Winter Olympics are scheduled to get underway in Salt Lake City, Utah, this Friday.