Training sessions for Olympic volunteers will go on as scheduled Saturday with a presentation by SLOC President Mitt Romney, even though organizers have canceled other events in the wake of this week's terrorist attacks.

"The training program is not meant as a celebration. We felt that celebrations were not in keeping with the sense of national mourning," Romney told local and national reporters Wednesday in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.

The two training sessions at Cottonwood High School Saturday "clearly will be a more somber setting" than past gatherings for new volunteers, Romney said, but will showcase what he described as the higher purpose of the Olympics.

In an e-mail sent Wednesday, Romney assured SLOC's staff that "the work we are doing is more important than ever." He described the Olympics as "a symbol of peace, of the bond of humanity, and of the triumph of civilization over barbarism."

SLOC has yet to reschedule gala press events that had been planned for Wednesday in New York City and Monday in Salt Lake City to announce the names of the thousands of torchbearers selected to carry the Olympic flame across the United States and through Utah.

Also yet to be reset is a meeting that had been scheduled for Thursday of the SLOC Board of Trustees and Management Committee. Romney said he was not sure he'd be able to return to Salt Lake City in time for the meeting because of the closure of the nation's airports.

He was in the nation's capital to lobby for Olympic public safety funding at the time of the jetliner crashes Tuesday.

SLOC's chief spokeswoman, Caroline Shaw, was in New York City to prepare for Wednesday's torchbearers press event set to be held in Battery Park, just blocks from the World Trade Center. Neither Romney nor Shaw were harmed in the attacks.

SLOC sent employees home early on Tuesday after the attacks. On Wednesday, its downtown offices reopened with stepped-up security.

In his e-mail to SLOC staff, Romney said security planning is changing to protect the Games. "To some this may be an inconvenience. To me, it's just common sense," Romney wrote.

Everyone entering the lobby of the former American Stores building at 299 S. Main St. is now being stopped by guards posted at the bank of elevators. Employees have to show their SLOC identification badges and visitors must check in at a new second-floor reception desk.

Before Tuesday's terrorist attacks, the lobby was not guarded and visitors had free access to the main reception desk on the 13th floor, although access to other floors did require a SLOC escort.

The new restrictions put into place Wednesday were scheduled to be implemented later this month as part of a planned escalation in security, SLOC's chief operating officer, Fraser Bullock, said.

Bullock said it just made sense to put the additional security in place sooner in response to Tuesday's events "obviously for the care of our employees." But he said organizers don't see themselves as a target for terrorists.

Comment on this story

"We don't believe we're a target at all. We have no information that would suggest that we are," Bullock said. "What we want to do is make sure people coming into the building are our employees or are people with appropriate appointments."

By January, he said, everyone entering the building will be required to go through a magnetometer similar to those used at airports. Their bags will also be checked and visitors will need an escort to meet them on the ground floor.

Those security measures are similar to those implemented by organizing committees during past Olympics, including the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta and the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.


E-mail: lisa@desnews.com