July 28, 1996 in Nation/World

Security System Likely To Encircle Symbol Of Peace Park Already Had Lots Of Surveillance, Now May Get Metal Detectors

Ed Timms Dallas Morning News
 

Centennial Olympic Park, intended symbol of the peace and harmony of the Olympic Games, has long been on Bill Rathburn’s worry list.

Even with its high-tech surveillance cameras and legion of security guards and police, the 21-acre park in downtown Atlanta looked to the Olympics security chief like a magnet for criminals.

The park, unlike other Olympics venues, was for the public - no tickets, no credentials and no security checks required to enter.

Rathburn, a former Dallas police chief, said last fall that he wanted to fence the entire park and give priority access to Olympics ticketholders. Guards would let others enter only if there was space.

Rathburn was overruled by superiors at the Olympic organizing committee, who said they wanted the park kept open.

The pipe bomb that exploded in the park early Saturday changed all that. The FBI closed the park, and other law enforcement sources said the closure was indefinite.

Centennial Park was the brainchild of Billy Payne, president of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. It was meant to be a place where crowds could relax, listen to music and buy souvenirs.

Along with the rest of the Olympic venues, the park is monitored by a network of ultrahigh-resolution video cameras, all feeding into a computer system.

In addition, AT&T; had two similar cameras broadcasting live images of the park onto the Internet. The cameras can read a name tag from a football field’s distance. The cameras went dead in the blast.

The park was heavily patrolled by law enforcement officials, both in uniform and under cover. Besides the camera surveillance, a blimp periodically monitored the area overhead.

Sources said Olympic officials were having a hard time Saturday deciding how to adjust security measures.

“One obvious option would be ‘mag’ the park,” said one source, referring to magnetometers or metal detectors, such as those used at the airport.

xxxx SECURITY BY THE NUMBERS The size of the Olympic security force, which was concentrated at the venues and failed to protect visitors from a bomb at Centennial Park: 30,000 police, military, private guards High-tech surveillance equipment 1,000 bomb experts 40 bomb-sniffing dogs $227 million in federal funds SOURCE: News reports Knight-Ridder Tribune


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