Military to Help Olympic Effort
By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 29, 1996 Vice President Al Gore said the federal government must do its part to make the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta successful. He said the support will come from numerous federal agencies, including the U.S. military.
In a recent press conference, Gore said hosting the 1996 Games is a gigantic task. "The Atlanta Committee on the Olympic Games is doing its part," said Gore. "The state of Georgia is doing its part. The City of Atlanta is doing its part. The federal government must do its part, too.
"These aren't only Atlanta's games, they are America's games," he said. "Because they are America's games, America's government must run the leg that only it can -- specifically in the areas of security, the processing of international visitors and transportation."
With the thousands of foreign visitors attending both the Olympic Games July 14 - Aug. 4 and the Paralympic Games Aug. 15-25, Gore said the federal government must help local law enforcement in keeping people safe.
"Someone has to help patrol the streets, gather intelligence, check cars, trucks and packages for explosives and take the lead on counterterrorism," he said. "Only federal law enforcement agencies, teamed up with the Department of Defense, have that kind of muscle and the tens of thousands of people to take on that responsibility."
Those needs will be extensive. At stake is protection of 36 Olympic venues -- including training sites and Olympic villages -- and 16,500 athletes, coaches and officials from nearly 200 countries. It also involves protecting the nearly 361,000 daily spectators.
Most of the 36 venues are in Atlanta and include the new Olympic Stadium, the Georgia Dome, the Omni, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and campus athletic facilities at Georgia Tech. However, security personnel must also support venues in other areas of Georgia and Tennessee, as well as soccer stadiums in Miami; Orlando, Fla.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Washington.
There aren't as many police in Georgia as there were at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. "We just have a very different law enforcement picture in Georgia than we had in California," said U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick. "That is why we have done everything we can to make sure that as many people as are available will be present in Atlanta and around the environs of the venues."
Gorelick will bring in 12,000 to 15,000 law enforcement officers in Atlanta to bolster city, county and state resources. "One of the benefits, and one of the reasons why, is to relieve state and local law enforcement of responsibilities that they might otherwise have," she said.
Providing Olympic security assistance is nothing new for DoD. The department supported the 1980 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, N.Y., by congressional direction. Since then, it has supported every major international competition in the United States.
"Once we found out Atlanta was awarded the games, we immediately sent people there to meet with the local law enforcement and organizers," said Jeanne Fites, DoD's deputy undersecretary for requirements and resources. "We wanted to tell them what we could provide and the kind of services we provided in the past two Olympics."
As a matter of policy, Fites said, most DoD support goes to public agencies, such as law enforcement and public safety. "We know they don't have all the assets for anything of this magnitude," she said. "Public safety cannot and should not be held hostage to private committee budgets."
DoD is committing nearly 9,000 active and reserve component troops to the Olympic support effort. They'll come from 41 states, and most will fill DoD security requirements.
Officials with the Joint Olympic Task Force at Fort McPherson, Ga., said much of DoD's law enforcement support will come from National Guard units. These troops will team with other federal authorities in patrolling venues.
Service members will also help inspect vehicles and packages entering and leaving Olympic venues. Military aviation units will provide helicopter support to law enforcement efforts, and DoD explosive ordnance disposal teams will assist other federal agencies if needed.
While security concerns top DoD support commitments, they do not cover all support. Of the 9,000 DoD personnel slated for Atlanta duty, nearly 2,000 will provide administrative and logistical support. There are also requirements for military linguists, musicians and communications specialists.
One major task has military personnel driving Olympic shuttle buses. Task force officials said uniformed military reservists and National Guard drivers will handle all shuttle traffic between the Olympic villages and the athletic venues. Olympic task force officials said keeping drivers in uniform would enhance athlete security and deter possible threats.
Service members will stay at base camps around the city. Initial arrivals will stay at a leased five-building airline training facility that can house 3,500 troops. Once that fills, troops will occupy seven local schools -- each housing between 450 and 750. All facilities will have air conditioning, mobile kitchens and recreational facilities.