Faster, Stronger, Safer

By Michael A. Gips

The mountains of Utah are an apt backdrop for the massive security and public safety effort put into the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

>The Winter Olympic Games, one could say, are as pure as the driven snow. These games have traditionally been held in snug mountainside towns such as Lillehammer, Norway, Nagano, Japan, and Albertville, France, where access and attendance have been limited. In the 78 years that athletes have battled for medals in such sports as cross-country skiing, bobsledding, and speed skating, no winter game has been disrupted by an act of terrorism. Security for these events has been commensurate with the perceived low threat.

But the current torchbearer, Salt Lake City, Utah, takes on the task of hosting the world's best athletes just months after the most devastating terrorist attack in U.S. history. As a result, the 2002 winter games will see an unprecedented level of security during the 17 days of competition and celebration this month.

The security challenges that Salt Lake City faces match the scale of the events. Salt Lake City covers 90.5 square miles within a larger theater of 3,000 square miles. About 2,500 athletes representing 80 countries will be on hand, as will thousands of coaches, trainers, support personnel, officials, and family members. In addition, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) estimates that about 70,000 to 80,000 visitors will attend per day, including heads of state and other dignitaries, such as President Bush. Nine thousand members of the press, 20,000 or so vendors, an estimated 20,000 volunteers, and countless other participants further complicate the picture.

In recognition of the large job that lay before it, Salt Lake City began security preparations the very day that it won the right to hold the games: June 16, 1995. Over the following six-plus years, officials set up a vast operation, intricately coordinated among dozens of federal, state, and local agencies (see sidebar). Together, these agencies orchestrated the hiring and training of personnel and developed specific measures for securing venues and for dealing with more remote threats, such as air attacks.


Before September 11, the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command (UOPSC) was to coordinate a force of about 2,300 state and local law enforcement officials dedicated to public safety issues, and another 1,700 federal officers such as Secret Service agents, explains Rick Dinse, vice commander of UOPSC. Experts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other life safety and disaster recovery agencies were also to be present. Given the heightened apprehension following September 11, another 2,000 members of the Utah National Guard are being deployed in and around the venues, Dinse says.

Through a private firm, Contemporary Services Corporation, SLOC will be providing thousands more event management staff, mostly Utah residents, to perform such security-related functions as crowd management and baggage screening. They will be supervised by law enforcement.

Bringing in military personnel should be a boon, says Bill Rathburn, director of security at the Atlanta Olympics and a key player in security for the Los Angeles games in 1984, because "they come in with their own support structure." He says personnel problems have bedeviled Olympics past because the huge demand exceeds the pool of qualified candidates.

"In Los Angeles, we tried to hire lots of private security, but even with the tremendous L.A. population we couldn't get enough." He explains that the Olympics imposes a tremendous demand for personnel on the entire population. "It's not just for direct Olympics jobs, but a lot of other businesses add people for different functions." In Atlanta, the organizing committee aimed to minimize the use of private security firms and maximize volunteers, "but that didn't work any better," he says, due to lack of training and experience.

The many organizations performing public safety and security duties have undergone specific forms of training appropriate to their functions. Of particular note is the training of local police and of event management staff who have security duties.

Police. Among all the agencies on the front lines of the winter games, perhaps the most prominent will be the Salt Lake City Police Department. The officers are experienced in everyday police work and in emergency response, but most have never worked such a massive tourist event, says Police Chief Dinse. To prepare them, Dinse has arranged special training.

Part of that training was delivered by tourism security expert Peter Tarlow. In his sessions, Tarlow emphasized the direct relationship between how officers act toward the public and how well they handle public safety. He, therefore, included instruction on working with people, including the need to be polite and to be aware of cultural differences. Tarlow also encouraged officers to interact with people, because "a gregarious officer has a much higher likelihood of preventing an incident," he says.

Officers also learned tips for frequently encountered situations. For example, Tarlow explained that when giving someone directions at night, officers should use landmarks rather than hard-to-see street names.

Because Salt Lake City is expected to receive a blizzard of tourists from all over the world, police will have to know how to deal with non-English-speaking visitors, especially in crisis situations. In one role-playing exercise, Tarlow ran up to an officer and started screaming to him desperately in Hebrew that his daughter had disappeared. Nonplussed, the cop didn't know how to react. However, about half of the officers in attendance determined through tone, body language, and other factors that someone was missing.

Tarlow called the officers' attention to clues for understanding those speaking unfamiliar languages and provided some tips for improving that understanding. Body language and tonality are particularly revealing, he says. A person in distress needs to see the officer in control, Tarlow says, so the officer must convey this control in body language. If the person seems to be saying that someone is missing, the officer might remove a picture from his or her wallet, gesturing to the person to respond in kind with a photo of the missing person.

Also, to limit the time spent finding the right translator so the officer can address the situation immediately, the officer might gesture for a photo ID or passport. (Translators for dozens of languages will be on hand.) Tarlow added, moreover, that many non-Americans know more than one language, so if an officer is fluent in another language, he or she might try to communicate in it. Salt Lake City police are particularly skilled in foreign languages, Tarlow noted, because many are Mormon and spend time on missions in foreign lands.

Event management staff. SLOC's event-management staff, provided by CSC, will consist mostly of volunteers. They will take on such security-related roles as verifying credentials and screening visitors at perimeter entrances.

For "mag and bag" (magnetometer and bag) screening, these volunteers were trained based on Secret Service guidelines concerning what items are prohibited and how to detect them, says SLOC Director of Event Services Richard Bezemer. "The Secret Service has a certain technique for presidential details," he says. "We modified that to enhance throughput."

Volunteers were trained with videos and written materials explaining the various roles at the checkpoints, such as pacing visitors through the metal detectors, searching bags, or using the wand detectors. One tip for "pacers," Bezemer says, is to make sure that the subject doesn't bump into the machine, which might trigger a false hit. A mock deployment gave these volunteers experience in the various roles they would be playing even before the games began.

Dry runs. Authorities held a three-day test run of security in April 2001 that involved 1,600 people who would be helping to protect the games. The simulation "fully exercised actual physical responses to threats and staged incidents as they may occur during the games," according to Dale Watson of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division, who described the tests at a congressional hearing late last year. "Tactical teams exercised strategic assaults while investigators gathered evidence and processed crime scenes," he said. They also practiced managing and mitigating the effects of a major hazardous materials incident, according to Watson


The most public face of Olympics security is the protection of the official venues: places where players compete or stay and where crowds gather. The ten competition venues are the Ice Sheet at Ogden (curling); Snowbasin Ski Area (alpine skiing); Salt Lake Ice Center (figure skating, short track speed skating); E Center (ice hockey); Utah Olympic Oval (speed skating); Utah Olympic Park (bobsled, luge, skeleton, ski jumping); Park City Mountain Resort (alpine skiing, snowboarding); Deer Valley Resort (alpine skiing, freestyle skiing); Soldier Hollow (biathlon, cross-country skiing, some athlete housing); and the Peaks Ice Arena (ice hockey).

Other noncompetition venues include the Olympic Village; Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium, site of the opening and closing ceremonies; and Salt Lake Olympic Square, an eight-block gathering area in downtown Salt Lake City open only to pedestrians. Within Olympic Square is the Salt Palace Convention Center, which will host the media corps, and the Olympics Medal Plaza, which will feature medals ceremonies and concerts.

These competitive and noncompetitive venues stretch well across the region, taxing planners. In addition, cold and snow present a special challenge to both people and machine. Following are some of the common tools and techniques being deployed at venues.

>Perimeter controls.
In the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, major competition venues were surrounded by a perimeter fence with patrols and magnetometers. What caught the public attention was the one venue without such a perimeter: Centennial Park. On July 27, a pipe bomb went off, leaving two people dead and more than 100 injured.

Ironically, that park may well have been the most well-protected public gathering area at any Olympics until the current one, says Atlanta security chief Rathburn, who has been to nine Olympics dating back to Lake Placid, New York, in 1980. "Centennial Park was not an oversight," says Rathburn, who has been consulting for Sensormatic, an Olympic sponsor. "The problem was the proximity of a lot of activities in a small area. That limited us in the things we could do."

One problem, he says, was the park's proximity to the Georgia Dome, which attracted large crowds for basketball games and gymnastic events. The risk to the park was acknowledged, he says, but surrounding it with a fence would have been logistically trying. In addition, he says, Atlanta police opposed fencing the park due to concerns about pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

The logistics in Salt Lake City are different, of course, as are the political pressures and public expectations, so authorities will be creating an eight-block perimeter that will surround various downtown venues, to include many of the main public gathering places. The area will use fencing topped by barbed wire, observed by foot patrols.

Access control.
SSP Solutions will be authenticating event employees at venues with smart cards and biometrics. SLOC's Bezemer says that proximity access control systems are installed in SLOC headquarters buildings and warehouses and that there will be some electronic access control installations at the Olympic Village at the University of Utah where the athletes will be housed.

At all venues, entry inside the perimeter will require passage through a metal detector and a hand check of bags. Backpacks and other large bags will be prohibited, as will potentially dangerous articles. For sites where there is a tighter perimeter around the competition facility, ticketholders will have to pass through yet another screening to actually enter a facility.

The only sites without circumscribed perimeters are vast venues such as the cross-country skiing course, which is virtually impossible to put a fence around. Separate entrances will be available for ticketholders, media, and athletes.

A typical Winter Olympics uses 25 walk-through metal detectors. Salt Lake City will deploy about 450, plus about 500 or 600 hand-held and about ten ground-searching detectors, according to Jim Dobrei of Garrett Metal Detectors, an Olympic sponsor. The walk-throughs will be a mix of Garrett's Magnascanner CS 5000 model, a basic walk-through, and the newer Magnascanner PD 6500 units, which indicate where on the body metal is detected. (September 11 inspired an increase in the proportion of pinpoint detectors to general detectors.)

Olympic public safety personnel point out that the so-called "pinpoint" detectors will be especially useful in cold weather because they won't force visitors to shed much outerwear during a second scan. For example, if the walk-through detector signals metal only near a person's hand, the person doing the subsequent wand screening probably won't ask the visitor to unzip or remove a parka or take off a pair of boots, for instance. In addition, using the wand for only specific areas of the body is expected to save precious seconds per person, which will shorten lines.

Of course, frigid air and blowing snow will put sensitive equipment to the test. For example, Dobrei says that in frosty conditions, standard liquid crystal displays on some equipment can "flake" and be difficult to read. But he says that Garrett is using LCDs that have proven themselves in hyperborean climes.

Dobrei says that Garrett and UOPSC personnel have performed several practice runs using the equipment and have fine-tuned settings to compensate for the conditions. Because outerwear often contains metal, such as zippers, and because the more heavily someone is dressed, the more likely it is that he or she will be wearing metal, Dobrei expects to get more hits than usual. "We're doing more testing at [specific] settings so we can expect [a certain] percentage," he says.

Delays at checkpoints are a major concern for any large event, and prior Olympics have posed significant challenges. Dobrei points to three factors that should help the public adjust to the inconvenience. First, visitors will receive ample warning that they will be screened. Second, the public's increasingly frequent encounters with bag checks, x-rays, and magnetometers, especially since September 11, should make everyone more patient and understanding about any security- related delays. Third, much of the screening will be performed by the National Guard, which is expected to speed up the process, as will the use of the pinpoint detectors. "[Screeners] are usually volunteers," he says, who, while well-intentioned, often have little experience and limited training.

While many public safety experts praise the large downtown perimeter, displacement concerns inevitably arise: Misconduct will be relocated, as in Atlanta, just outside of the perimeter. That's why, says Dobrei, businesses and buildings just outside the perimeter such as television stations and shopping malls are considering using metal detection at their entrances. For example, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will be using metal detectors in combination with bag checks "at all Church headquarters facilities that are open to the public," says spokesman Dale Bills. Many of these facilities, such as a renowned family history library, are top tourist attractions. Bills says the metal detection setup worked fine when put through a test run in December.

CCTV is another important security tool that will be used in force at the games. More than 500 CCTV cameras manufactured by Sensormatic will watch the action in Salt Lake City in all the Olympic venues, half of them fixed cameras, the other half programmable models.

Special built-in heaters will keep the hardware from freezing. Dedicated fiber-optic lines provided by Lucent Technologies will carry the transmissions to both a local monitoring station and a central command area. In previous Olympics, video feeds went directly to tape, but Salt Lake City has gone digital. Transmissions will be stored digitally for easier retrieval by time and place.

Networked into the video system will be a variety of sensors, including motion, glass-break, and fence-mounted sensors. Outdoor cameras will be able to view objects from 1,500 feet away, an important feature when security is trying to get exhaustive video coverage of vast mountain or cross-country sites.

Athletes and officials have welcomed the technology for purposes other than security as well, according to Louis Chiera, who is directing Sensormatic's Olympic marketing effort: Video helps officials keep the action moving safely and allows athletes to analyze their performances.

For example, officials at Utah Olympic Park view CCTV to determine whether the track is clear for the next bobsled or luge or the jump is clear for the next skier. A special digital recorder at the same site allows these athletes to analyze their positions and movement at several points along a course, helping them shave precious hundredths of a second from their times.

Cameras also keep track of traffic flow into the venues. Personnel can then redirect patrons from backed-up entry points to less crowded ones.

While officials are preparing for an incident-free event, CCTV records may help lead police to the culprit if an incident does occur. If more cameras had been recording activities in 1996 in Atlanta's Centennial Park, for example, they could well have gotten the bomber on tape, says Assistant Special Agent in Charge Raymond S. Mey, the FBI's program manager for the Salt Lake Olympics.

Facial recognition.
In the past year, Tampa, Florida, has come under intense scrutiny for its use of facial recognition technology at Raymond James Stadium during the 2001 Super Bowl and in the city's Ybor City entertainment district. Facial recognition at the Super Bowl involved a system that captured images of patrons entering the stadium and compared them with computerized mug shots of criminals. Critics feared that law enforcement would retain images of these fans in their files. The backlash, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, scared UOPSC off the technology, but at least one local jurisdiction was undaunted.

>West Valley City police, who have primary public safety responsibility for the E Center (home to a local hockey team and a popular site for concerts), are posting cameras at entrances for facial recognition. Other cameras are scanning the crowd for the same recognition purposes.

According to Police Chief Alan B. Kerstein, faces at the doors and in the crowd will be compared to a database of criminals in the Salt Lake City area. At press time, he was also hoping to tap into FBI databases to identify terrorists and other dangerous criminals.

Although UOPSC backed off the technology in the face of public pressure, Kerstein said he has encountered "no resistance." In fact, the system, by Graphco Technologies Inc., will remain in use at the E Center indefinitely for hockey games, concerts, and other events, Kerstein says. "The Olympics is just a start."

Facial recognition also makes an appearance off site, guarding the vault area at O.C. Tanner, the Salt Lake City firm providing the medals for the 2002 games. The Sensormatic system, says Chiera, is being used to enroll only the few Tanner staff authorized to access the medals. Anyone entering the vault must be matched to a facial image logged into the database. Also securing the vault are digital video cameras tied to motion detectors and sensors that gauge light levels.

According to Chiera, other biometrics are being used in "certain high-security applications," but Olympic officials declined to elaborate.

Remote Threats

Other more remote threats that the security forces have had to consider for the games include aircraft attacks, anthrax mailings, and mass chemical and biological attacks. Incursions into the massive Olympic computer system are yet another worry.

Air security.
Salt Lake International Airport is expected to be shut down, and the skies cleared over the region, during the opening and closing ceremonies. Stringent airspace restrictions will be in effect at other times as well, says the FBI's Mey. That level of precaution is possible because the city doesn't see the heavy air traffic common on either coast. U.S. Customs helicopters and radar planes are expected to patrol the skies, as are F-16s from nearby Hill Air Force Base. The proximity of the base will allow quick intercept ability, says Mey.

Postal inspection.
Though the risk of anthrax being sent by mail seems to have subsided, SLOC and UOPSC are taking the threat seriously. About 50 postal inspectors have been dispatched to examine all letters and packages sent to athletes, officials, and journalists at the various venues, according to James A. Heavens, Jr., postal inspector in charge, 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Inspectors will be offered the opportunity to wear masks and gloves so as not to be exposed to deadly spores, though such protective gear will not be mandatory.

In addition, says Heavens, seven task force operations have been established to address such issues as bomb management and intelligence. He notes that the U.S. Postal Service has a vast network of carriers who have contact with residences and businesses six days a week. These carriers and other staff will warn authorities if they see anything suspicious either in the mail or along their routes, Heavens says.

Chem/bio threats.
Some experts fear that terrorists will plan widescale chemical or biological attacks instead of focused anthrax mailings. The safety plan includes provisions for protecting the water supply, ventilation systems, hazardous materials sites, and so on. Of course, all materials and vehicles entering venues will be scrutinized as well. In addition, aircraft will be monitoring radiation levels in the air.

"We have chemical distribution failures all the time," says Salt Lake City police chief Dinse, including tanker rail cars that derail. Thus, detailed response plans to chemical incidents are already in place and have been put to the test. Still, says Dinse, "we've revisited site evacuation plans. Every site has such a plan."

Federal equipment and personnel will be on site as will medical response teams. Other experts will monitor the environment for signs of chemical or biological contamination.

Computer security.
SLOC has not overlooked hacker hijinx that could hijack the games. A massive computer network--which, according to SLOC's Chief Information Officer David Busser, includes about 5,700 PCs and laptops, 550 servers, 50 major application systems, 1,850 fax machines and copiers, and 1,150 printers--manages event results, such as bobsled-run times and figure skating scores. The system also generates credentials for athletes, dignitaries, officials, journalists, and others; feeds data to television commentators; and performs many other tasks. Sabotaging the computer system could conceivably make it impossible to discern which athlete won a race.

SLOC is preparing for a barrage of electronic attacks on the system from all angles, according to Busser. Protecting the system will be robust firewalls, anti-virus software that will be updated as often as possible during the games (perhaps hourly), an intrusion detection system, and a rapid response team provided by SchlumbergerSema.

Busser says the response teams have been practicing procedures through a series of "technical rehearsals." They run through scenarios involving security breaches, failed applications, and other problems, he says, and respond as they would in an actual crisis. "Sometimes procedures are wanting, [so] we make adjustments," he says.

While Salt Lake City isn't expected to look like a militarized zone, a substantial security and public safety operation, both visible and unseen, will pervade the Olympic environment during its 17 days. The effort, estimated to have cost $300 million, has been Herculean in scope. But if all goes well, the headlines will go only to the world-class competition--and the only heart-stopping events will be on the slopes and on the ice.

Synchronized Security

The first challenge the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) faced was navigating the tricky course of overlapping duties among the mishmash of government agencies that would be involved in securing the games. To smooth the way, the Utah legislature created the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command (UOPSC) in 1998. That body brought together the efforts of local, state, and federal agencies under the command of Robert Flowers, commissioner of public safety for the state of Utah.

About 20 agencies are represented in UOPSC, including the Salt Lake City Police Department, the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, the Utah National Guard, and SLOC. Carved out of UOPSC are 26 subcommittees whose constituents reflect the expertise of their agencies. Some of these subcommittees, or working groups, include venue security, village security, communications, and intelligence.

In general, each agency represented in UOPSC is tasked with the kinds of responsibilities it carries out on a daily basis, taking its everyday plans and procedures and tailoring them to handle an event of the magnitude of the Olympics. Because each agency's activities are synchronized through UOPSC, resources are not wasted on duplicated efforts and gaps in duties don't leave any issues unaddressed.

For example, pursuant to Presidential Decision Directive 62 (PDD 62), the FBI is to take the lead in any "national security special event" with regard to intelligence, crisis management, hostage rescue, and counterterrorism issues. Since May 2000, the FBI has had in place an Olympic Joint Terrorism Task Force with representatives from many other agencies. The task force is charged with collecting and analyzing intelligence and handling any associated investigation.

As another example of the role a specific agency will play, under PDD-62, the Secret Service is charged with physical security design, planning, and implementation, as well as with air interdiction. The Secret Service will work with specific venues to conduct pre-event sweeps for explosives, for instance. It has a lead role for many of UOPSC's other functions as well.

Screening Competitors

As a part of its Olympic duties, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) was charged with accrediting approximately 20,000 foreign nationals coming to Salt Lake City to participate in the games. With the heightened concern after September 11, SLOC and the U.S. government wanted to ensure that these persons were properly vetted before they received visas.

During the 1996 summer games in Atlanta, each of the more than 190 participating countries had its Olympic committee fill out its own team credentials. These credentials were, in turn, submitted to various consular officers for special visa processing. The lack of centralization caused delays and confusion.

To avoid those problems and to improve data exchange efficiency, Salt Lake City and the State Department worked to centralize the document entry process. The Department of State, working closely with SLOC, established a special temporary "clearance protocol" and a secure, encrypted, electronic interface called the Olympic Visa Information Database (OVID 2002) to facilitate secure electronic information exchange between SLOC and the State Department for background checks.

According to OVID Program Manager Ron Acker, the goal was to have "a complete audit trail for accredited athletes." The process was intricate, but essentially worked like this: Each country's Olympic committee (or other responsible organization) submitted information electronically or on paper, as well as a digital photograph, directly to SLOC, which entered the details into an accreditation database. Key information from that database then was transmitted to the OVID server, where it was used to check against intelligence agency databases, as well as other government databases, of criminals and suspected terrorists. Approved visas were embedded in each athlete's Olympic photo credential. If any name was flagged, that candidate was investigated.

Upon an athlete's entry into the United States, officials of the Immigration and Naturalization Service rechecked the credentials using real-time information, says Acker. For example, if a national Olympic committee wished to revoke the credentials of an athlete who was already headed to Salt Lake City, that information would be inserted immediately in the OVID database and the person could be denied entry into the United States, he says.

Michael A. Gips is senior editor of Security Management.



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