IOC says Winter Games are a go

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

LONDON -- For the first time, a senior Olympic official questioned Tuesday whether the Winter Games should go ahead in Salt Lake City while the United States is at war in Afghanistan.

But the International Olympic Committee reiterated that the games would go on as planned in February, saying that only "World War III" could lead to a possible change.

Gerhard Heiberg, a respected IOC member from Norway, became the first IOC official to suggest publicly that the games might not take place in the crisis stemming from the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States.

"A country at war can't organize the Olympic Games," Heiberg was quoted as saying in the Norwegian evening paper Aftenposten.

Heiberg's words carry significant weight. He was the organizer of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, considered the best Winter Games in history, and serves on the IOC oversight commission for the Salt Lake Games.

Aftenposten quoted Heiberg as saying that the commission, which meets next week in Salt Lake, is expected to discuss if U.S. military action in Afghanistan is "an armed conflict, a military operation, a strike against terrorism or a war."

"It's clear that we have to discuss what would happen," Heiberg was reported as saying. "I must add that it's an important issue. ...

"It's a hypothetical question now if the Olympics could be staged or not. It's too early to say what's going to happen in three months."

IOC maintains stance

IOC president Jacques Rogge and Salt Lake organizing chief Mitt Romney have repeatedly insisted the games will go ahead, saying beefed-up security measures would ensure the safety of athletes and spectators.

"President Rogge has made it abundantly clear the games will go on. To do otherwise would be giving into terrorism," Romney said Tuesday in a statement. "The games are needed now more than ever. The IOC executive board has voted unanimously on this decision."

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