Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics & Public Service

Project Prologue

Utah Olympic Public Safety Command

With attendance anticipated to be in the millions, the participation of some 3,500 athletes from over 80 nations, and daily support provided by over 20,000 organizers and planners, the 2002 Olympic Winter Games easily qualified as a world class sporting event.  Coverage by over 9,000 media representatives broadcasting to a television audience in excess of 3.5 billion viewers catapulted these Games onto the world stage.  Planning for the public safety and security of the Games required an unprecedented level of cooperation and coordination among the myriad of local, state and federal law enforcement entities with responsibilities associated with the Games. Under the direction of Dave Tubbs, the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command, this group of individuals had the responsibility to coordinate public safety for various security groups including the FBI, the Secret Service, the Army, the National Guard, Highway Patrol, local police, and county sheriff’s in a way that had never been done before.  Members of the UOPSC traveled to Emmitsburg, Maryland where they had extensive training in new technologies that allowed the coordination between local, state, and federal agencies that was unique to this Olympics. Members of this group were assigned full time to Olympic planning and were directly responsible for coordinating programs in the areas of: tactical planning, public safety training, communications systems, infrastructure protection, intelligence, weapons of mass destruction, explosive ordinance disposal, aviation support, media affairs, and credentialing, as well as numerous other Olympic planning functions.  Following the attacks of 9-11, a thorough re-evaluation was performed to close any gaps that remained. Air security was stepped up, entrance to venues made more stringent and some non-competition sites made more secure. Visitors to Salt Lake City have a right not only to be safe, but to feel safe. Much of the security surrounding the Salt Lake City Games was highly visible, helping to deter potential threats before they happened. A sampling:

    • A 45-mile-radius restricted flying area over Salt Lake City and all Olympic venues will be in place from February 8th-24th.
    • Armed soldiers of the Utah National Guard will patrol airport terminals.
    • Salt Lake City International Airport will be able to screen all baggage for explosives — one of the nation’s first airports with that capability.
    • For the first time in a Winter Olympics, all visitors at all venues will be subject to metal detectors (nearly 1,000 of them).
    • Biometric scanners will be used to identify athletes and officials, allowing them to enter sensitive areas while keeping others out.
    • Strategically placed cameras will record visitors’ movements.
    • Portable X-ray equipment will be used to inspect any mail that appears suspicious.
    • Vehicles will be prohibited from approaching the outdoor and indoor venues and other selected buildings beyond a 300-foot perimeter.

We can prepare for a safe Winter Olympics.

But we cannot make any promises. As Utah Governor Mike Leavitt has correctly said, “Our efforts can only go to minimize, not eliminate, risk.

Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service