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Tight Security Measures Protect US World Cup Team - 2002-06-07

Security for teams, officials and fans is an important concern at any major sporting event. But since last September's terrorist attacks in the United States, there is even more focus on protecting Americans.

Before coming here to the World Cup, U.S. Soccer team Communications Director Jim Moorhouse said, the question he was most often asked, both by players and reporters, was about the team's security. He said he kept trying to downplay it, so there would not be too many worries. But when the team landed in Seoul on May 24, he realized how seriously the local officials took their jobs.

"When the team arrived at the airport, it was an absolutely unbelievable scene, really," he said. "There were literally 800 Korean police officers lined up through the airport, a wall of people to shield the team, from the international terminal straight out to their bus, straight across the street. It was an impressive sight, with the police escorts, the choppers, the swat team, and the Chevy Suburban [van] following us around, so it's impressive to see."

Moorhouse told VOA Sports, for seven or eight months before the World Cup, U.S. soccer team officials worked closely with the South Korean organizers, football's world governing body, FIFA, and officials in the U.S. government.

"There's only so many specifics we can go into, but we've worked with the State Department in various detail with different outlets, the CIA, FBI," he explained. "And we've worked closely with them, and they have a number of people on staff with us here protecting the team at the hotel and as we travel through Korea."

Moorhouse said there is also a contingent of Korean security personnel assigned to the U.S. Soccer team for its entire stay at the World Cup.

"The Korean side of the security equation has been very thorough and very prominent in its display with the numbers. It's very much about quantity with the Korean police force," he said.

Even with all the security measures, Jim Moorhouse said, the American players have not found the security force intrusive.

"Not overbearing, not a distraction. That's been the common theme for all the players, but very visual, very visible. But as a distraction, it doesn't affect the players in any way, shape or form," he said.

Moorhouse says it's impossible to keep secret where teams are staying during the World Cup, so the hotels also have to take security measures.

"The security in the hotel is actually pretty standard as for past World Cups and other events we've had," he said. "They do have the security checks as you enter the hotel, which is pretty necessary during a World Cup, because there are so many people. And they're checking press credentials and things like that. But all in all, very thorough."

For members of the media who wish to attend the almost daily U.S. Soccer team news conferences and interview opportunities, they must first go through hotel security, and then get checked once again by the U.S. team's security staff.