NEW YORK – Since Sept. 11 the world has come together to battle terror — and when the nations unite again this month for the Winter Olympic Games, security will be tighter than ever to keep the peaceful celebration of athletics safe.
An average of 70,000-80,000 visitors are expected to arrive in Salt Lake City daily for 17 days, over an area of 900 square miles, according to the Office of Homeland Security.
"I believe one of the safest places on the globe from beginning to end of February will be Salt Lake City," Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said when he toured the Olympic sites on Jan. 10.
But even after years of preparation by approximately 60 different federal, state and local agencies Ridge isn't making any promises. "There's no guarantee it is a fail-safe system," he said.
In contrast to the last American Winter Games which were held in 1980 in Lake Placid, N.Y., and secured by approximately 1,000 personnel, the 2002 Winter Games will be protected by a force of more than 10,000 — including 4,500 military servicemen and women, the office said in a statement on their Web site.
"We want to take the concern of security away from the athletes so they can concentrate on performance," United States Olympic Committee CEO Lloyd Ward said.
"We simply want to provide a safe environment for U.S. athletes and athletes around the world."
But IOC President Jacques Rogge said security plans didn't alter greatly because of Sept. 11 and won't necessarily be as tight as some past games. He noted the extreme precautions taken for the 1976 games in Montreal that followed the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich 1972 games as an example.
The bombing in Atlanta during the Summer Games in 1996 was also a wake-up call to officials to tighten Olympic security.
But the IOC doesn't aim to make the Olympics into a battlefield. "They're won't be a soldier behind every athlete," Rogge said.
"The scenario of a plane crashing into a venue is a scenario that has been on the risk list for 15 years," he said. "Whether we have the means to prevent it is another issue, but there have been no-fly zones in all Olympic Games for the past decade, and there will be a no-fly zone in Salt Lake City."
The White House released a summary of the security plan for the games on Jan. 10:
Every visitor to every event and venue will be scanned with a metal detector, a first for the Winter Games.
Salt Lake City International Airport will be one of the country's first airports able to screen all baggage for explosives.
A mobile field laboratory to detect and analyze radioactivity and chemical- and bio-weapons materials will be operated by the FBI.
The Department of Energy will have nuclear response teams at the ready and will be watching the energy infrastructure in the area.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is contributing emergency response coordinators, lab scientists and other professionals.
In order to protect the world's best athletes and the fans that flock to watch them more than $300 million in combined federal, state and local funds have been allocated for security for the Winter Olympics, according to the White House.
"Terrorism will not prevail," said Ridge. "Fear will not prevail. America will prevail and America will host the Olympics."
"This is probably the best planned, best coordinated and best organized plan the world has ever seen."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.