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Postcards from Salt Lake
Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006


Absolute military genius

By JAMES CHRISTIE

There are many jokes about oxymorons - phrases that contain an apparent contradiction - and the one that always gets universal agreement is "military intelligence."

At the Salt Lake Games, there have been examples of absolute military genius. I was standing by a bus bound for the E-Center hockey rink, when the driver pointed to one of the security measures - little metallic tape stickers on the cargo bays under the bus. They're meant to serve as seals across secured openings. If they're broken, it's a tipoff to security agents.

They can check inside for a terrorist - or worse, someone trying to sneak in without a ticket.

"The Army put those on," the driver said, then opened two doors without breaking a seal. America's defenders had put the stickers over the hinge-side of the door, not the opening side. The door could be pulled open and the sticker merely bent with the hinge.

"Guess the Army was having a bad day," the driver said.

Security check lineups are tedious, but locals do their best to try and lighten the mood. At Deer Valley, the site for freestyle skiing, the media line for bag searches was already hour long at 7:15 in the morning. Venue staff cruised the line, making small talk, handing out taffy and chocolates. Then a tape started playing over loudspeakers, welcoming media and visitors and reminding them things will move faster if they arrive at the checkpoint with zippered bags open and contents visible. Some famous names were recruited for the announcements, including gold medalists, singer Aretha Franklin and supermodel Claudia Schiffer.

It does make the morning a little brighter when, instead of a trooper, it's Claudia Schiffer's voice telling you to unzip and display your equipment.

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