-- Dozens of prospective U.S. Olympians declared themselves confident in security measures for the 2004 Games in Athens as they paraded through a hotel ballroom Saturday during a Media Summit, but some said they were worried about the safety of family and friends.
When in the Olympic Village or at the venues, all 10,500 Olympians will fall within a security perimeter buffered by a protective force of 70,000, and U.S. athletes are among a handful of Olympians designated for additional protection because of negative politics surrounding the United States. Their loved ones, however, are entirely on their own.
"I'm more concerned with my family," U.S. weightlifter Cheryl Haworth said. "I'm definitely going to be much more concerned with how they're treated and where they go and what happens to them. I'm not going to be worried about myself . . . If anybody's going to be protected, it's going to be the American athletes."
Said Stacey Nuveman, a member of the U.S. Olympic softball team, "They don't have armed guards walking with them everywhere they go. They're probably more nervous than I ever thought of being."
Security-related fears have resulted in changes in plans or rethinking of behavior for some athletes. Indoor volleyball player Lloy Ball said his wife and 3-year-old son will not attend the Aug. 13-29 Olympics largely because of the threat of a terrorist event. The decision is an unusual one for the family. Ball said his wife has traveled with him for 12 years, and his son has attended many of his matches in Europe.
"I don't feel I'd be doing my job as a father and husband if there's any kind of chance [of a problem] and I take them over," said Ball, who lives in Fort Wayne, Ind. "While I'm confident nothing is going to happen, the 2 percent chance that something would happen will keep them home."
My wife "is a grown woman," he added. "I know she can take care of herself. The little one's a different story. Knowing he's in bed in Fort Wayne every night when I go to sleep in Athens will make me sleep a lot better."
Some prospective Olympians said family members traveling to Athens promised to take precautions. Nuveman said her husband and parents planned to tone down their wardrobes, probably packing red, white and blue items in their backpacks and removing them only when they passed through security to get inside venues.
"They won't necessarily be screaming 'USA' like they were in 2000 in the pictures and video," Nuveman said. " . . . They'll be more subtle in terms of what they wear; they're not going to have big hats or stars and stripes like they had in the past."
U.S. athletes said they, too, would be more discreet as they make their way around town -- if they leave the Olympic Village at all.
"The state of the world is incredibly sad right now," Nuveman said. "We spent time in Italy recently and we had to be more low key, just to be on the safe side. I'm very proud of my country, and I wish I could be outwardly proud. . . . Unfortunately, you act as the world dictates."
Said equestrian competitor Robert Costello, "Even four years ago in Sydney, I think it was encouraged maybe not to go out in the biggest jacket with USA on your back, even though Australia was a friendly country to us. . . . It's common sense maybe just to play it down a little bit."
Said Ellen Wilson, an athlete in judo, "You don't just announce it, ever. I'm proud, but I want to be safe, too."
U.S. Olympic softball player Lori Harrigan said she didn't observe any outright hostility during the team's recent tour through Italy, but she did notice a change.
"People were probably a little bit more standoffish than they were friendly, which is kind of understandable when you look at the issues around the world," said Harrigan, a security supervisor at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas.
Even so, athletes said almost uniformly that they were not concerned about their own security. Fencer Erinn Smart said her fears were allayed during a recent trip to Athens when the U.S. Ambassador to Greece, Thomas J. Miller, invited the team to his home for dinner. Smart said fencers questioned Miller about security preparations and his answers provided reassurance. He talked about the $1.2 billion the Greek government and Olympic committee have designated to make the Games safe.
"It kind of soothed my apprehensions about going to Athens," she said. "We asked exactly what was going on and the answer to all of our questions was very confidently that we would be well-protected."