The 2002 Winter Games will stage its eclectic smorgasbord of sports for the next two weeks under an unprecedented and ominous shadow of security that will touch everyone who steps on Olympic soil.
"There are no guarantees in the world of counterterrorism," said Mitt Romney, head of the Salt Lake City Olympic Organizing Committee. "There is no possibility of zero risk."
Given those circumstances, security will affect spectators before they land in Salt Lake City. Passengers on flights will be asked to stay in their seats during the last half-hour of their flights, or risk the plane getting diverted. Spectators will go through metal detectors at every one of the 15 Olympic venues and will be asked not to bring backpacks or metal objects that will cause delays in security screenings. Organizing officials are asking spectators to allow lots of travel time to the Olympic venues because of traffic and security issues. Officials estimate it could take as long as four hours to travel from downtown Salt Lake City to Park City, a drive that normally takes about 45 minutes.
And that's if it doesn't snow.
Travel times aren't the only thing on the rise, either. Fans attending the games will have to watch their wallets. Prices soared this week in downtown Salt Lake City.
While Salt Lake organizers have discouraged price gouging, Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce President Larry Mankin makes no apology for the dramatic price increases.
"Free enterprise is a wonderful thing," Mankin said. "You can charge what the market will pay. Isn't this a great country?"
Not everyone will leave broke. About 2,550 athletes from 77 countries and an estimated 1.6 million spectators are expected here for 17 days of sports -- including biathlon, curling and bobsled -- that don't usually pop into America's consciousness unless there are Olympic rings attached to the story.
The United States Olympic Committee contingent of 211 athletes heads a delegation of 437 that has set a goal of winning 20 medals in Salt Lake City -- seven more than the best U.S. performance in any Winter Games.
In addition to competing against the best in the world, the athletes -- and those in charge of their safety -- are also fighting the altitude. Salt Lake City features the highest Olympic venues winter athletes have faced in decades. The 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, Calif., were the latest even to come close to such elevations.
The U.S. women's hockey team, favored to bring home a gold medal, left its Lake Placid training site on Jan. 9 for a monthlong high-altitude training trip. The goal: to get ready for the Salt Lake City's 4,100 foot-high E Center and the 4,550-high Peaks Ice Arena.
At 5,725 feet high, the Soldier Hollow course is the highest world-class biathlon venue on the planet, U.S. biathlon team spokesman Jerry Kokesh said.
As figure skater Michelle Kwan, downhill queen Picabo Street and teenage short-track speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno join others in the chase for gold, silver or bronze, they will be constantly reminded of the premium placed on security.
The center of the Olympic village includes an International Zone, a semicircular area with an outdoor stage protected by chain-link fences within seven security checkpoints.