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Postcards from Salt Lake
Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006


Even security has its limits

By JAMES CHRISTIE
Wednesday, February 20, 2002


SALT LAKE CITY - A reporter was passing through one of the ubiquitous security checks, emptying his pockets of all metal objects, as according to instructions. No matter how much he unloaded, the scanning equipment went off with a loud telltale buzz.

They can't be too careful. One man held up the line while security staff puzzled over the spent shell of a bullet on his keychain.

"Step over here, sir," commanded the soldier in fighting fatigues. He passed a yellow wand over the reporter's body, and as it passed down one pantleg, it let out a distinctive whoop, signalling he presence of metal.

The soldier patted his pocket and found nothing.

"I've had a hip replacement," the reporter said, and was permitted to pass.

The sensitive security snooping has also discovered sugical staples and pins. But not everything hip is a surgical reconstruction. It's sensitive enough that it picks up body jewellery, too. A soldier explained that at some Winter Olympic venues (my guess is snowboarding), there has been an electronic whoop for multiple earrings and decorative rings in pierced navels. It gives a new meaning to the concept of Olympic rings.

Pierced navels are not a surprise.

"There's a lot of women with those," the soldier said. "And it picks up nipple rings and jewellery in, uh, more intimate areas. We try to be discreet. We ask them to explain, but we haven't asked them to show it. If we had any doubts, we'd call someone from SLOC (the Salt Lake Olympic Committee) to deal with it."

Good thing the security staff listens to an explanation and doesn't demand show-and-tell. A female colleague said such wands are sufficiently sensitive to detect a contraceptive intrauterine device (IUD).

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