There are currently more U.S. Army personnel in Salt Lake City, Utah, than in Afghanistan, and this is causing some controversy.
Members of the foreign media and many foreign Olympic athletes have begun to complain about the rigid security measures that have been taken by the United States to ensure peace at the Olympics. Cameramen from other countries have had chewing gum confiscated, reporters have had their security badges inspected for more than an hour and athletes have been late to practice because they are subject to the same security processes as everyone else.
Sure, these are all inconveniences, but this is post-Sept. 11 America, and everyone needs to get used to it.
There is no doubt that it is in the best interest of fans, athletes, press, local residents and officials to try and achieve an acceptable balance between security and convenience at the Games, but if the scale tips to one side, security should take priority.
What would be remembered longer by those in Salt Lake City: a terrorist plot taking the lives of Olympic participants, or a runny nose and cough developed from waiting in the cold outside a venue while officials ensure security?
There are approximately 11,000 law-enforcement officers currently in northern Utah – more than four times the number of athletes – and an estimated $320 million will be spent on securing the Games. These extreme figures may be viewed as overzealous by the rest of the world, and as just another example of U.S. excess, but the millions of people from around the world who have made the pilgrimage to watch and participate in the Olympics are probably sleeping much better at night because of it.
Following Sept. 11, as most Americans will testify, things that before seemed like major inconviencences are now welcomed as necessary precautions. And like any good host, America is just trying to treat Olympic visitors like we would our own.