- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2001

Local teams, as well as sports organizations and leagues worldwide, are planning additional stadium and arena security measures in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

Specific plans have not yet been set, but some combination of metal detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs and enhanced, casino-style video surveillance systems appears likely at hundreds of sports facilities.

Such actions are common to airports and government buildings, but in sports they usually have been reserved for the Super Bowl, Olympics and other major events.

"Our whole attitude toward safety is going to be different now, and that includes stadium security," said Barry Horvitz, a Houston-based weapons and hazardous materials expert who has worked with the NFL and United States Olympic Committee. "Stadiums are already rather safe places since there is police, fire and ambulance usually on site for every game. But as we go forward, every place of major public assembly is at greater risk."

On a national scale, major league baseball, the NFL and NCAA football all were preparing for resumption of play as soon as this weekend. Greater police presence and video monitoring, at a minimum, is expected throughout.

"We are literally reviewing all of our security procedures as we speak," baseball spokesman Rich Levin said yesterday.

NHL and NBA officials similarly were beginning arena security reviews in advance of their 2001-02 seasons.

Locally, that review continued as the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Orioles prepared to hold games this weekend. The Redskins open their home schedule Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.

The NFL has not yet made decisions whether scheduled games this weekend will go on, but insiders in both leagues say they are likely to take place. Should baseball give the green light to restart play tomorrow, the Orioles would play host to the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards.

Mitt Romney, president of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, said a $200-million security plan for February's Winter Games will be completely reevaluated. Organizers of the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, also said they will take a look at their $600 million plan, and the International Olympic Committee will address the issue during meetings next week.

For next year's World Cup soccer tournament, South Korea plans to designate no-fly zones above its 10 venues, as well as tighten airport and port security checks and increase air surveillance from the ground.

Sports venues are seen as attractive targets for terrorist attacks because of their visibility, vulnerability and the large numbers of people. NFL crowds routinely exceed 65,000, and several college stadiums can hold more than 100,000.

The mass fear of a terrorist strike at a major U.S. sporting event was the subject of "Black Sunday," Thomas Harris' 1975 novel and subsequent film. The story centered on a Palestine Liberation Organization plot to detonate a blimp over the Super Bowl.

Even with the best of preparations, tragedies have occurred at real-life sporting events. At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, a bomb was detonated in Centennial Park despite a $303-million security effort that included more than 30,000 local and federal security personnel. Twenty-four years earlier, 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by terrorists at the 1972 Summer Games in Munich.

Professional and major college teams regularly review their stadium and arena security plans with local and state police, as well as relevant stadium and transportation authorities. In the case of Washington's sports teams, that list also includes the Secret Service and FBI. The NFL additionally has former FBI staffers in nearly every league city to consult on security matters.

"For us, the lucky thing is that we're down here [in downtown Washington]," said MCI Center spokesman Matt Williams. "If something did happen, federal authorities would be able to respond quickly."

At major sports events, specific anti-terrorism measures have been employed resembling those used at prominent federal government buildings.

During the Gulf War in 1991, security at the Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., included restrictions on what fans could bring into the stadium, a concrete pedestrian barrier circling the stadium at a distance of 100 yards, overhead police helicopters and a no-fly zone around the area.

Security personnel at January's Super Bowl XXXV, again in Tampa, deployed a sophisticated computer security system that took pictures of people in crowds and ran those images through a digitized mug shot database of known criminals and suspected terrorists.

Predictably, the main hurdles in enhancing stadium security are time and money. Sophisticated security plans typically take months to prepare; security planning for the Salt Lake Olympics started in January 2000. The facial imaging from Super Bowl XXXV cost about $100,000 for the one-day use. A regular deployment would tax already tight stadium budgets.

But the massive scope of Tuesday's tragedies likely will downshift the bean-counting.

"There is a greater desire to return to normalcy as soon as possible, and that includes attending sporting events," said Bobby Goldwater, executive of the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission, which operates RFK Stadium and the D.C. Armory. "We have already been in contact with the Metropolitan Police Department and other appropriate parties to begin discussion on what needs to happen for our next events whenever they may be. We'll be ready."

* Staff writer Rick Snider contributed to this report.


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