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Testimony Given at a Competition, Foreign Commerce, and Infrastructure Hearing:
Lessons Learned from Security at Past Olympic Games
Tuesday, May 4 2004 - 2:30 PM - SR - 253

The Testimony of Mr. Carl Lewis
U.S. Olympic Athlete in Track and Field

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the sub-committee for this opportunity to speak on the important matter of Olympic Security. The timing and the subject matter of this hearing are critical, and I applaud you for recognizing its importance.

I have had the privilege and honor to represent my country on five U.S. Olympic teams and to compete in four summer Olympics: Los Angeles (1984), Seoul (1988), Barcelona (1992) and Atlanta (1996). In each of these games, security has been an important consideration and unfortunately, it is even more so now in the world we live in today.

As an Olympic athlete, I am by no means an expert on security matters. What I am is an athlete who knows how to prepare for competition. To be successful, when an athlete trains and prepares for competition, he or she needs to focus his or her complete and undivided attention on training and preparing for competition. An athlete cannot be distracted by any other factors or diversions. My message and plea to you today is simple: as members of the U.S. Government please do everything within your power to ensure that the greatest level of security is available for the Olympics in Athens.

I also have a message to the athletes who are in the midst of their training for Athens: stay completely focused on your training and rest assured that you will be competing in an environment that has the highest level of security ever provided to an athletic competition. To help raise your comfort level as athletes, consider the following:

- Well over $1.2 billion dollars will be spent for security at Athens -- which is nearly four times what was spent protecting the Sydney Games four years ago;

- For the first time ever, the U.S. Government is able to provide its own protection for U.S. athletes; and

- The U.S. Government has been in close contact and working collaboratively for years with the Greek and other Governments on a joint security program – this will be an international effort.

In my experience of competing in four Summer Olympic Games, I have always been impressed with the level of security provided athletes by the host nation. I have never felt threatened or concerned with security, and that has allowed me to focus on competition. I am confident that despite the new security concerns about Athens, the extensive and well-coordinated security programs that will be in operation will provide all athletes a high level of confidence and will allow them to focus exclusively on what they came to do – compete on the fields of play and connect with new friends from around the world.

I am aware of those who think that sending U.S. athletes to Athens is an unnecessary risk. Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, as a member of the U.S. Olympic Team that was not able to compete in the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow, I urge you to ensure, that absent some clear and present risk, we never take that course of action again. Our athletes have been training for much of their lives for this very special moment. Let’s not take that away from them.

The beauty of sports, and in fact, the very foundation of the Olympic movement is that sport transcends all borders and political strife. Regardless of the conflicts of the world and the various difficulties in international relations, we have a powerful and beautiful common interest: the competition of sports. It is my hope that this Olympics will be the best ever and that with your continued support, athletes are able to do what they do best – compete, without any distractions.

I appreciate the opportunity to be able to present my views and speak on this important matter.