Tuesday's apparent terrorist attacks on the East Coast canceled plans by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee to make a national splash in New York City by announcing the names of the thousands who will carry the Olympic flame on its way to Salt Lake City.
Shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday, SLOC closed its offices early and sent employees home in response to the tragedy. SLOC is headquartered in the former American Stores building on Main Street in Salt Lake City. SLOC officials declined to characterize the action as an evacuation.
"We are not evacuating," SLOC spokeswoman Jaime Rupert said.
SLOC President Mitt Romney said in a prepared statement, "We, like the rest of the nation, are appalled by the enormous travesty which has occurred today. Our prayers and sympathy are with the victims, their families and the rescue workers. Out of respect for the loss of life that has been suffered and the emotional impact felt by our staff, SLOC has released its workers to be with their loved ones. We have no further comment at this time."
The International Olympic Committee had no comment Tuesday on whether the attacks would affect Salt Lake City hosting the 2002 Winter Games in February, a spokeswoman at the Switzerland-based organization said.
SLOC had planned to release the torchbearers' names in New York City on Wednesday in the shadow of the World Trade Center. The torch announcement was scheduled to take place in downtown Manhattan at Battery Park, which is adjacent to the now-crumbled skyscrapers.
"There's no way you can talk about inspiration with what's going on right now," said Mark Walker, SLOC spokesman.
SLOC spokeswoman Caroline Shaw was supposed to be in Battery Park at 9 a.m. Tuesday, with a member of the New York City public relations firm Coltrin & Associates, which is working with organizers on the torch relay. "Fortunately, they weren't there," Rupert said. "They were in the lobby of Caroline's hotel."
Rupert said Shaw saw the collapse of the World Trade Center. "She did tell me she witnessed the trade center collapse. She said it was just devastating."
Baseball great Willie Mays and New York Yankee manager Joe Torre were to join Romney in Battery Park to announce thousands of participants in the nationwide torch relay. People selected to carry the Olympic flame were nominated by those who found them inspirational in some way.
Romney, who was in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, also was to throw out the first pitch at the YankeesChicago White Sox game Wednesday night. And he was scheduled to appear on the morning network talk shows.
The cancellation of Wednesday's event in New York City has left in limbo an announcement planned for Monday of the Utah torchbearers.
Wednesday's announcement was planned in the park with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop. "It's symbolic of what will take place across the country in local communities," said Ahmad Corbitt, a vice president at Coltrin & Associates.
Some 7,200 people identified as inspiring individuals were chosen from more than 210,000 nominations to carry the glass-and-metal torch. SLOC, the IOC, the U.S. Olympic Committee and Olympic corporate sponsors also get to choose about 4,300 participants without going through the nomination process. There will be about 11,500 torchbearers in all.
SLOC has kept the names of torchbearers a secret, though a couple have trickled out the past week or so.
The Olympic flame that will burn for the 2002 Winter Games will be lighted in the ruins of a Greek temple where the ancient Olympics were once held. It will arrive in Atlanta, site of the 1996 Summer Games, Dec. 4 for a 65-day, 13,500-mile journey through 46 states to Salt Lake City.
The IOC said in a statement, "The horrendous terrorist attacks perpetrated this morning in the U.S., has left the International Olympic Committee with a profound sense of shock and disbelief. The IOC president, Dr. Jacques Rogge, has expressed the deepest sympathy of the entire Olympic movement to the families of all the victims and has sent letters of condolence to the president of the United States, the USOC and the Salt Lake City organizing committee."Comment on this story
In Colorado Springs, the U.S. Olympic Committee had heightened security and closed its athlete training facilities to the public at least through Thursday, according to spokesman Mike Moran. Employees were being allowed to go home, he said. Several hundred athletes are training there. The men's national volleyball team cancelled its practice Tuesday, Moran said. "We have stepped up security in terms of outside people coming in but nothing huge," he said. All of the USOC's senior staff is in Colorado Springs, but former USOC President Bill Hybl, who was recently named a U.S. representative to the United Nations, is believed to be in New York City, Moran said.
France's ambassador to the United States, Francois Bujon de l'Estang, was scheduled to arrive in Salt Lake City Tuesday morning to meet with SLOC leaders, but has cancelled his visit, according to Yo-Jung Chen, a press spokesman in the French consulate's San Francisco office.The ambassador's flight was diverted to Kansas City and he was attempting to return to Washington, D.C., as quickly as possible, Chen said. "Under the circumstances, a national disaster for America, we cannot carry on with our planned schedule."