NEWS

USOC head: Security’s fine, we’re ready for the Athens Olympics

NEW YORK – With the Athens Games just 91 days away, US Olympic officials expressed confidence on Friday in security and reiterated their commitment to sending a full 550-member team to Greece. «The threat of terrorism to affect the Olympic Games and our country… we don’t want to bow before that threat,» said Jim Scherr, chief executive of the United States Olympic Committee. Scherr’s feelings were echoed by USOC president Bill Martin, who told reporters that pulling the Americans out of the Olympics over security concerns was never an issue. «We’ve had absolutely zero meetings ever» on the subject, Martin said. «As of today, there is no question that we are planning to send our entire team.» The officials spoke at the US Olympic Team Media Summit, a weekend-long event which brought members of the USOC and dozens of athletes to meet reporters in midtown Manhattan. Martin and Larry Buendorf, USOC chief security officer, acknowledged that security in this year of terrorist bombings in Madrid and elsewhere was paramount. «The bar’s been raised a bit for these Games,» Buendorf said. «It was raised for Salt Lake City (in 2002), and it’s been ratcheted up a little bit more.» There will be about 70,000 military and law enforcement personnel at the Athens Games, at a cost of about $1.2 billion for security – quadruple the amount spent at Sydney four years ago. US Olympians will receive a pair of security briefings: The first in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in June, and the second upon arrival in Greece, officials said. Buendorf dismissed this month’s bombings of an Athens police station as the work of «disgruntled groups» rather than terrorist organizations. A Greek group claimed responsibility for the blast; no one was injured in the attack. Scherr acknowledged that many athletes had inquired about security concerns for the August 13-29 Games, but stressed that none planned to withdraw over their fears. US soccer star Kristine Lilly felt the same way. «There’s a little concern, but it’s people’s jobs to work on security. They’ll take care of that.» The Americans will send 550 athletes and a support staff of 300, along with more than 100 federal agents to keep an eye on them, Buendorf said. While the vast majority of the athletes will stay in the Olympic Village, the Dream Team of NBA stars may stay aboard the Queen Mary II, he said. The security boss also said that the athletes will not be told to stay in the Olympic Village, to leave the Games once their events are done, or to avoid wearing their US colors. «There’s nothing on the screen right now that would make us restrict our athletes from enjoying the Games,» Buendorf said.