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U.S. Cities Set Security Pact for Olympics

January 17, 2002|ALAN ABRAHAMSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The mayor of Houston, one of the four U.S. cities bidding to host the 2012 Olympic Games, said Wednesday that all four have agreed to what he called an "unprecedented security pact" should one of the four win the right to stage the Games.

Houston Mayor Lee P. Brown said he had proposed in recent days to the mayors of New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., that they share "ideas and resources" on the "major security issues" at the Games, from the design of the Olympic grounds to plans for policing the Games.

All agreed, Brown said.

"One thing we don't want to see is anybody taking seriously the notion that America would not compete [for the Games] because of security issues," Brown said in a telephone interview with The Times. "That would be a defeat we should not stand for."

The mayor acknowledged that he developed his proposal in response to recent reports that have documented the escalating costs of staging the Olympics, in particular security costs. The scope of the financial undertaking has sparked debate about the future direction of the Olympic enterprise in the United States, where recent editions of the Games have been a public-private partnership.

Direct funding for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics totals $1.9 billion; federal, state and local taxpayers will fund about $600 million of that.

Security costs alone amount to $310 million, more than three times that of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics. The federal government has invested $240 million in security funding, $55 million since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Citing the increasing costs, Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney has suggested that the U.S. government might be factored into the process by which a U.S. city is chosen to bid for the Games--which now is the sole responsibility of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

The International Olympic Committee will select the 2012 host city in 2005. Moscow, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro are among those expected to compete against the winner of the U.S. bid process.

In Salt Lake, the U.S. Secret Service has taken the lead role in combined federal, state and local law enforcement planning for the Games. Nonetheless, city police traditionally have played a key role in U.S. Games.

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