1. Archive

Wide-scale problems mar Atlanta Olympics

They promised the most secure Olympics in history. Yet, Atlanta organizers had trouble Tuesday explaining how a man carrying a loaded gun slipped into Olympic Stadium before its showcase event _ the opening ceremony.

The security breach was the latest embarrassment for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, already reeling from a series of organizational breakdowns that have tarnished the image of the Centennial Games.

The first few days have been hit by transportation and technical problems on a wider scale than any recent Olympics, causing delays and disruptions for media, athletes and spectators.

The breakdowns have alarmed the International Olympic Committee, which scheduled a special executive board meeting today to deal with the problems.

"From a personal standpoint, I am not pleased at some of the problems we've had," said ACOG spokesman Bob Brennan. "But the games are not over yet. We will be judged at the end of the games rather than the beginning."

The criticism extended Tuesday to security, which organizers had touted would make the Olympics the safest in history. They spent more than $300-million and deployed about 30,000 personnel.

Officials confirmed that a man armed with a semiautomatic .45-caliber handgun _ loaded with 11 rounds _ managed to talk his way into the Olympic Stadium shortly before the arrival of President Clinton and other world dignitaries for the opening ceremony.

Rolland Atkins, 55, of Aurora, Colo., was masquerading as a security guard when officers caught him inside the stadium at 7:15 p.m. Friday, police said. He was charged with criminal trespassing, carrying a dangerous weapon and carrying a pistol without a license. He was later released on $17,000 bond.

Lyn May, an ACOG spokeswoman, said the man was not accredited and did not have a ticket for the ceremony.

"We feel the (security) system did work, and we are pleased it did," she said.

At a later news conference Tuesday, the head of Olympic security saw it differently.

"Certainly, in my opinion, it did not work as well as it should have worked," said Bill Rathburn. "I certainly wouldn't sit here and say this is a good example of the success of our security program."

Criticism persisted over transportation and technology problems at the games, while organizers said they continued to make headway in fixing flaws.

There has been a chorus of complaints about buses that are late, don't arrive at all or get lost. A number of drivers have quit due to complaints of being overworked or not being paid as promised.

Some drivers even have admitted to a lack of experience driving a bus.

"It is possible some drivers have never been behind the wheel of a bus before these Olympics," said Brennan, the ACOG spokesman.

The ACOG-IBM computer network for relaying scores and results to the media has been riddled with malfunctions, and for the first time, organizers acknowledged they might have to abandon the feed for news agencies.

"The feed for the world news agencies continues to be very discouraging," Brennan said. "Efforts to bring it on line have not been successful. . . . We're not going to rely on it for the balance of these games."

IOC spokeswoman Michele Verdier was asked whether it was too late to get things working.

"No, it's not too late," she said. "It's never too late. It's only been five days. The IOC has not given up and will not give up."

Kevan Gosper, an executive board member from Australia, said the IOC had not lost confidence in ACOG's leadership.

"Looking at the big picture," he said, "the venues are running well, the sports are running well, the crowds are there, the atmosphere is there, and that must not be lost sight of."