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Ready To Be Under World’s Microscope
By Mark Burk
Rice-Eccles Stadium, nestled at the edge of the Wasatch Mountains on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, will be the site of the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. The university and the Salt Lake Organizing Group have been planning for the Olympic ceremonies and Athlete’s Village for so long that it is hard to believe that the Games are actually just around the corner.
Ever since Munich and 1972, security and the Olympics have been inseparable companions. With the events of September 11 so fresh in our memory, and the fact that the United States has been at war in Afghanistan, security has taken center stage at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
This has already caused some tense moments, even for NBC. They have the broadcasting rights for the 2002 Olympic Games, and after a recent trip of NBC executives to Salt Lake City, their private plane lost radio contact with the ground. Immediately following their departure, fighter jets were scrambled from nearby Hill Air Force Base. They took up positions off the wing and tips of the NBC plane and forced it to land at Ogden-Hinckley Airport.
After some tense moments, for NBC travelers as well as military and civilian personnel on the ground, everything got sorted out and the plane was allowed to continue its trip to New York City. The plane’s passenger list included Dick Ebersol, the head of the network’s Olympics division and other NBC executives who were in Salt Lake City for a pre-Games briefing.
Our staff and the SLOG’s charge are to provide the safest possible venue for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2002 Olympic Games. Since the terrorist attack of September 11, a good security plan was made better even though SLOG has always planned for the highest level of security. Although it would be unwise to explain specifics of the security features implemented for these ceremonies, there will be a massive effort to safeguard the campus, the stadium and those attending Olympic events.
This will be possible due to the cohesiveness between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Utah’s governor, Michael Leavitt, has spearheaded the effort to ensure that all law enforcement agencies work together in a coordinated effort. More than 7,000 officers from 80 agencies will work during the Games. In fact, we’ve seen so many federal agents on our campus that the Secret Service isn’t much of a secret. In addition to the FBI, Secret Service and local law enforcement agencies, more than 150 people, representing national Olympic committees, and security officers from national and international corporations, have been meeting regularly to plan for all types of security concerns. This combined expertise from all over the world has been coordinated and focused on our stadium, as well as all other venues, to ensure a successful and safe event.
Some of the security features that will be implemented include magnetometers, bag searches, security fencing, barricades and CCTV. Enhanced access controls such as vehicle searches and accreditation control required in all areas including perimeter compounds will be enforced.
Given that the terrorist attacks were directed against civilization itself it is important, even imperative, that these Games continue. The ceremonies that will be broadcast to the world from our facility will touch peoples’ hearts. They will heal emotional wounds and remind the world that civilization will endure. This is also an opportunity for those of us in the west to show support for those who have suffered so much in the east.
Ultimately, this is why we’re in the public assembly business. People come to our stadiums to cheer, to celebrate and feel good about life.
In the last issue of Facility Manager, Mark McCullers described how technology would impact the future of stadiums. For us, in hosting the Olympic ceremonies, the future is now. We expected minor inconveniences and heightened security as a result of hosting Olympic events on our campus. The terrorist attacks, however, have insured that we will face these inconveniences with a spirit of determination. The world may well be surprised at how we are able to showcase America and touch their hearts under trying circumstances. We intend to make sure that events of the past will not dictate the present or our future.
Mark Burk is director of Rice-Eccles Stadium & Tower at the University of Utah in salt Lake City, UT.
International Association of Assembly Managers